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The Psychologist 

Roberto Assagioli, M.D. 

and his work 


Extracts of his life-work 

The Practice of Meditation 


Satsang Press - Gent (Belgium) 

© August 2010 - Private Use Only 

The Psychologist Roberto Assagioli 

Roberto Assagioli (Venice, February 27, 1888 - Capolona d'Arezzo, August 23, 
1974) was an Italian psychologist, humanist, and visionary. Assagioli founded 
the psychological movement known as psychosynthesis, which is still being 
developed today by therapists, and psychologists, who practice his technique. 
His work in the field of psychology concentrated on spiritual needs, pertaining 
to the will and Ego. 

Assagioli did not like to discuss his personal life, as he preferred to be 
remembered for his scientific work. Very few biographical accounts on the life 
of Roberto Assagioli are available, and most are not written in English. 

Assagioli was born on February 27th, 1898 in Venice, Italy, and came from a 
middle-class Jewish background. He was born under the name Roberto Marco 
Grego, however, his biological father died when Assagioli was two years old, 
and his mother remarried Alessandro Emanuele Assagioli soon afterward. As a 
youth, Assagioli was exposed to many creative outlets at a young age, such as 
art, and music, which were believed to have inspired his work in 
Psychosynthesis. By the age of 18, he had learned eight different languages, 
namely Italian (his native tongue), English, French, Russian, Greek, Latin, 
German, and Sanskrit. It was at this age he also began to travel, mainly to 
Russia, where he learned about social systems, and politics. 

In 1922 he married a young woman by the name of Nella, and they had one son 
together, Ilario Assagioli. 

In 1938, Assagioli was arrested and imprisoned by Mussolini's Fascist 
government, due to his Jewish heritage, and his humanistic writing. He was 
placed in solitary confinement for over a month, until he was released and 
returned to his family. During World War II, his family's farm in Florence, Italy 
was destroyed, and both he and his family fled underground. Tragically, his son 
died at the age of 28 from lung disease, which was accredited to severe stress 
from the harsh living conditions during the war. Once the war had ended, he 
returned to his work, and began his legacy, known as psychosynthesis. 

The years after the war were relatively calm, and it was during this time that he 
founded various foundations dedicated to psychosynthesis, in Europe and North 
America. Assagioli lived a long and prosperous life, and had a happy forty-year 
marriage, until he died at age 86 on August 23rd, 1974. The cause of his death 
was unknown. 

Assagioli received his first degree in neurology and psychiatry at Istituto di 
Studii Superiori Pratici e di Perfezionamento, in Florence, Italy, in 1910. It was 
during this time he began writing articles that criticized psychoanalysis, in 
which Assagioli argued a more holistic approach. 

Once he finished his studies in Italy, Assagioli went to Switzerland, where he 
was trained in psychiatry at the psychiatric hospital Burgholzli in Zurich. This 
led to him opening the first psychoanalytic practice in Italy, known as Instituto 
di Psicosintesi. However, his work in psychoanalysis left him unsatisfied with 
the field as a whole, as he felt that it to be too incomplete. 

Assagioli is famous for developing and founding the science of 
psychosynthesis, a spiritual and holistic approach to psychology that had 
developed from psychoanalysis. Assagioli insisted that psychosynthesis was a 
legitimate science, which was continuously developing, and which agreed and 
disagreed with theories formulated by other psychologists, particularly Sigmund 
Freud and Carl Jung. 

Trained in psychoanalysis but unsatisfied by what he regarded as its 
incompleteness as a whole, Assagioli felt that love, wisdom, creativity, and will, 
were all important components that should be included in psychoanalysis. 
Assagioli's earliest development of psychosynthesis started in 1911, when he 
began his formal education in psychology. He continued his work on 
psychosynthesis right up until his death. 

He was largely inspired by Freud's idea of the repressed mind and Jung's 
theories of the collective unconscious. Freud and Assagioli were known to have 
corresponded, although they never had the chance to meet. Assagioli considered 
Jung's theories to be closest in the understanding of psychosynthesis. 

Assagioli accredited much of his inspiration for psychosynthesis to his month- 
long incarceration in solitary confinement in 1938. He used his time in prison to 
exercise his mental will, by meditating daily while in prison. He concluded that 
he was able to change his punishment into an opportunity to investigate his 

Psychosynthesis Today 

In the December 1974 issue of "Psychology Today", Assagioli was interviewed 
by Sam Keen, in which Assagioli discussed the similarities between 
psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis: 

In the practice of therapy we both agree in rejecting 'pathologism' that is, 
concentration upon morbid manifestations and symptoms of a supposed 
psychological 'disease'. We regard man as a fundamentally, healthy organism in 
which there may be temporary malfunctioning. Nature is always trying to re- 
establish harmony, and within the psyche the principle of synthesis is dominant. 
Irreconcilable opposites do not exist. The task of therapy is to aid the individual 
in transforming the personality, and integrating apparent contradictions. Both 
Jung and myself have stressed the need for a person to develop the higher 
psychic functions, the spiritual dimension 

Assagioli also highlighted the differences between psychoanalysis and 

Perhaps the best way to state our differences is with a diagram of the psychic 
functions. Jung differentiates four functions: sensation, feeling, thought, and 
intuition. Psychosynthesis says that Jung's four functions do not provide for a 
complete description of the psychological life. Our view can be visualized like 
this: We hold that outside imagination or fantasy is a distinct function. There is 
also a group of functions that impels us toward action in the outside world. This 
group includes instincts, tendencies, impulses, desires, and aspirations. And here 
we come to one of the central foundations of psychosynthesis: There is a 
fundamental difference between drives, impulses, desires, and the will. In the 
human condition there are frequent conflicts between desire and will. And we 
will place the will in a central position at the heart of self -consciousness or the 

Assagioli also asserted about the will: 

The will is not merely assertive, aggressive, and controlling. There is the 
accepting will, yielding will, the dedicated will. You might say that there is a 
feminine polarity to the will -the willing surrender, the joyful acceptance of the 
other functions of the personality. 

At the end of the interview, Keen himself concluded: 

It is hard to know what counts as evidence for the validity of a world view and 
the therapeutic is entails. Every form of therapy has dramatic successes and just 
as dramatic failures. Enter as evidence in the case for psycho synthesis an ad 
hominem argument: in speaking about death there was no change in the tone or 
intensity of Assagioli's voice and the light still played in his dark eyes, and his 
mouth was never very far from a smile. 

Since Assagioli's death in the early 1970s, psychosynthesis has continued to be 
embraced as a comprehensive psychological approach for finding inner peace 
and harmony. 

The Psychosynthesis & Education Trust center in Britain was founded by 
Assagioli in 1965, and is currently being run by President Lady Diana 
Whitmore. The Trust is affiliated with Humanistic and Integrative Psychology 
Section of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), European 
Association for Psychotherapy (EAP), and a is founding member of the 
European Federation of Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy (EFPP). At present 
time, the group consists of a large group of psychosynthesis practitioners who 
mediate students. The Trust offers workshops, courses, and a newsletter, to 
anyone who is interested in learning more about psychosynthesis. 

Dr. Roberto Assagioli, founder of 

The following description of the life and work of Dr. Roberto Assagioli was 
taken from an article titled In Memoriam: Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974) in the 
second Synthesis Journal. Author is unknown.] 

Roberto Assagioli died quietly on August 23, 1974. his spirit, his thinking and 
his active collaboration formed the basis of SYNTHESIS. We remember him 
with deep gratitude. 

His life had a wholeness offered to few men or women; whole, in the sense that 
the bold innovator born nearly a century ago lived to see his ideas take form in 
hundreds of articles, books in many languages, students in numerous countries, a 
body of theory pregnant with new implications and consequences, and centres 

continuing to develop his work in the United States, Canada, England, Italy, 
Switzerland, France, Greece and Argentina. 

Such outer completeness, the struggle well-won, and the legacy left to his fellow 
men would be enough. But there was - and equally precious for those who knew 
him personally - an inner wholeness about this man that was itself a continuous, 
living triumph over death. He had the achievement of joy, of a dynamic serenity 
and wisdom. And he was complete in that he himself did not fear death: so vital, 
he never worried his passing, despite his own physical frailty during the last 
twenty-five years. It was as if he sensed that nothing important would be taken 
away, as if, in the joy he achieved, there was some personal knowledge of 

Be that as it may, the achievement of the man, both public and personal, recalls 
our attention and deserves to be remembered. 

Roberto Assagioli was born in Venice in 1888. To the west of Italy Queen 
Victoria ruled the Empire, and to the east a Viennese physician was already 
mining the foundations of Victorian culture. In 1910 Assagioli, the young 
medical student, introduced the important discoveries of Sigmund Freud to his 
professors at Florence. His name appears in the histories of psychoanalysis as 
one of the first two or three Italians to pioneer in bringing the courage and 
rationality of the psychoanalytic insight to bear on the frequent shallowness of 
Victorian life. This alone would, and did, make him noteworthy. 

The remarkable thing, however, is that while embracing the radical new currents 
of psychoanalysis, he simultaneously - in 1910 - laid the groundwork for a 
critique of that same psychoanalysis. He saw that it was only partial, that it 
neglected the exploration of what Maslow, some sixty years later, would call 
"the farther reaches of human nature." Assagioli's purpose was to create a 
scientific approach which encompassed the whole man - creativity and will, joy 
and wisdom, as well as impulses and drives. Moreover, he wanted this 
integrative approach to be practical - not merely an understanding of how we 
live, but an aid in helping us live better, more fully, according to the best that is 
within each of us. This conception he called psychosynthesis. 

He was very early. Who was there to hear such a large and balanced statement? 
Not many people in the twenties, not in the thirties, not in the forties, not in the 
fifties, were ready. It was only in the late sixties that, with the suddenness born 
of deep and massive need, his books and other writings were taken up by 
thousands. Almost sixty years needed to elapse, so far was he ahead of his time. 

He was never alone, of course. He was always a well-known figure, even 
prominent in Roman culture before the Second World War. He had 

correspondents and friends, colleagues and co-workers, all over the world - 
Jung, Maslow and Tagore among them. But the real work of those many years 
was a work of preparation; of patient thinking, studying, and learning the ways 
of the human psyche, of writing and rewriting. It was as if he were called to 
nurture, in a relative quietness, the outline of a theoretical and practical view of 
the human being that men and women of the seventies and beyond could use. 

Of his personal goodness, his patient understanding of co-workers, students, and 
clients, his brilliant and seasoned wisdom, his compassion and selfless giving of 
himself in service to others - much could be said. Here though, the note that we 
wish to sound is the one he himself always sounded - the note of joy. Claude 
Servan-Schreiber wrote of the first visit she and her husband made to the aged 
Florentine Doctor: "For a long moment we looked at each other, all three of us, 
without speaking. Assagioli smiling, his eyes astonishingly vital within a face 
lined by great age, moving over us, going from one to the other. Was he 
submitting us to an examination? It was, instead, the opposite. He was allowing 
us to discover him leisurely, to establish a connection with him, without us even 
realizing this was happening. It was a climate of communication where words 
find their place later, while something like a current was developing between us. 
His face was shining with an extraordinary, radiant, inner glow, such as I have 
never encountered in an octogenarian, and rarely in men much younger. This 
message of joy, perceived immediately, communicated immediately, is the finest 
memory which I keep of the numerous meetings which we later had with him. 
'All is possible and accessible to you: joy, serenity, I offer them to you as a gift.' 

The sources of his joy were deep within him, and he shared them freely, 
showing many others a way toward the freedom of such joy. He found joy in the 
experience of what he called the Self- the inner core, dynamic and transcendent, 
radiant with consciousness and powerful with will, immutable, universal. He 
found joy in his own Self and the Self he could see in everyone else. He elicited 
the joy of Self-realization in those who came to see him. He found joy in the 
contemplation of beauty, of art, of ideas, of service; of science, of nature. It was 
the joy of this knowing that must have made the years of his waiting easy. This 
was a far-seeing joy, one that grew on his love of contemplating from his garden 
the vast and starry reaches of the Italian sky - the endless worlds, the living 
cosmic miracle of what is and what is becoming. We can miss such a man, but it 
is hard to mourn you, Roberto, you with your face in the stars ! 


Psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and parapsychologist. He was born February 27, 
1888, in Venice, Italy, and educated at University of Florence (M.D.). As a 
young psychiatrist he became disenchanted with first Freudian and then Jungian 

psychoanalysis. Thus he turned his attention to the development of a new 
psychology he termed psychosynthesis. Psychosynthesis assumes that in 
addition to the conscious self, or "I", every person also has a pathway to a 
"Higher Self," which is a reflection of the divine. The purpose of each human 
life is to participate as fully as possible in self -evolution along that pathway. The 
system was left open so that both individuals and any psychologists could 
participate in developing psychosynthesis and incorporate the various occult 
tools of transformation. 

Assagioli founded the Institute of Psychosynthesis in 1926. He met Alice Bailey 
during the early 1930s, and they became friends; their organizations have 
retained a working association. Psychosynthesis was suppressed during World 
War II, and Assagioli was arrested. He spent his prison days exploring 
meditation and altered states of consciousness. After the war he revived his 
work and promoted the founding of institutes in the United States, Greece, and 

In 1958 Assagioli became chair of the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation at 
Greenville, Delaware, and editor of Psiche-Rivista di Studi Psicologici. During 
his mature years, he authored a set of books which became the major statements 
of psychosynthesis. He died in Capaiona, Italy, on August 23, 1974. 

Transpersonal Inspiration 
by Roberto Assagioli, M. D. 

Part One 

If we were to look about us at the "signs of the times", the present state of 
humanity, the direction of its interests and the nature of its behavior, we should 
doubtless be struck by a growing polarization between two opposing tendencies. 
On the one hand there is an immoderate desire for and frantic pursuit of material 
possessions, sensuous enjoyment, mastery of nature and authority over other 
human beings, coupled with the inevitable accompaniments in every field of 
licence and self-assertiveness, individual and collective aggressiveness, and 
violence. On the other hand we find, displayed in a more or less overt form, a 
degree of dissatisfaction with that materialism, aggression and self-centeredness 
which, among many of the young, becomes open rebellion. This opposition is 
characterized by a conscious or unconscious search for different and higher 
values and gratifications and a longing for what is by and large termed spiritual 
or religious. 

But the path of this search is strewn with uncertainty, confusion and 
misunderstanding. One notices a strange paradox in the fact that, while there is 
an abundance of evidence pointing to the existence of this higher sphere 
obtained by men and women of every age and place, it has been the object of 
little and largely unsatisfactory scientific research. A number of reasons account 
for this situation. In the first place, an erroneous conception of the scientific 
method is widely held, which would limit its use to the quantitative and 
statistical techniques suited to the natural sciences. Furthermore, the mind is 
reluctant to admit the existence of non-rational reality and values; it confuses the 
super-rational with the irrational or even anti-rational. There is also the fact that 
the descriptions of experiences in this higher sphere are generally couched in 
terms associated with religious doctrines, and employ pictures, symbols and 
forms no longer accepted or recognized as valid by the modern mentality. As 
Keyserling has said in his irreverent way, "they have been exhibited in the 
frames constructed out of their own prejudices." 

Another difficulty stems from the inadequacies inherent in language, the 
incapacity of verbal expression to communicate the true nature of trans-personal 
experience. All who have attempted description of such experiences have 
affirmed that they are ineffable. This is one of the characteristics attributed to 
mystical experience by William James in his Varieties of Religious Experience. 

Finally, the fear of adventuring into a different world from the common, 
everyday one must be reckoned with, a world that is unknown and apt to be 
baffling. This fear is strengthened by the frequent presentation of this 
"adventuring" in a negative way, usually calling for the renunciation of all that 
man is generally attached to, while insufficient stress is laid on its positive and 
joyous aspects. All this builds strong resistance and reluctance as well as what 
has been called the "refusal of the sublime". And yet, despite all, the 
dissatisfaction and search for "something other", the fascination in exploring and 
conquering the inner worlds, whose vivid light many have glimpsed, have bad 
the effect of drawing large numbers to those who present themselves as 
"messengers" and guides in this sphere, and who collect around themselves 
enthusiastic and often fanatical adherents and disciples. 

But wide variation in value distinguishes the messages and the competence of 
these guides, or "masters". Side by side with lofty and genuine teaching is 
proffered what is either totally spurious or contains an admixture of truth and 
illusion in varying proportions. Flanking the truly wise guides are to be found 
the false prophets who employ and teach methods that are not only worthless, 
but sometimes dangerous as well. Herein lie the necessity and urgency of 
scientific study and experimental investigation in this field: scientific in the 
sense of being independent of every doctrine, system and personal authority. 

Studies and investigation along these lines have been initiated and are 
undergoing rapid development. They constitute a new branch of psychology, 
which has been given the name "transpersonal" and which could be termed 
"Height Psychology"; but this is only a beginning: a great deal remains to be 
done. Speaking for myself, this field has occupied my attention for many years, 
and I am now (June 1974) engaged on the task of coordinating and 
systematizing my personal contribution to the field in a book to be called Height 
Psychology and the Self. Its proposed index will convey an idea of the vastness 
and complexity of this field: 

Introduction-The Dimensions of Psychology 

1. Two-dimensional (superficial) psychology; 

2. Depth Psychology; 

3. Height (Transpersonal) Psychology; 

4. Towards a three-dimensional, synthetic psychology. 


1. Levels of the inner world; 

2. The superconscious level; 

3. Experience and realization; 

4. Distinctive features of the "Heights" 

5. The Self (summary - existential experiences and transcendental realities); 

6. The seven different paths: 

a. The religious, devotional, mystic; 

b. The ethical, regenerative; 

c. The aesthetic; 

d. The path of social-humanitarian service and the heroic; 

e. The scientific-philosophical; 

f. The ritualistic or ceremonial; 

g. The path of the Will. 

7. Means and techniques for transpersonal realization: Descent and Ascent. 

One of the principal subjects covered by this Height Psychology is the 
relationship between superconscious, transpersonal activities and the conscious 
life, or, to put it more precisely, the various modalities employed in the passage 
of superconscious contents and energies into the field of the ordinary waking 
consciousness. There are several of these modalities, and thev can be indicated 

I. Intuition 
II. Imagination 
III. Illumination 


IV. Revelation 

V. Inspiration 

VI. Creation 

VII. Understanding and Interpretation 

They do not operate separately, but tend to act more or less contemporaneously 
and in combinations of varying proportions. This makes it easy to confuse one 
with another; which is why their scientific study requires that the distinctions 
and differences existing between each of them be clearly established. 
Differentiation of this nature is essential if their relationships and interactions 
are to be recognized and properly understood. This study has in its turn its 
various aspects and stages, which also must be kept distinct: 

1. The phenomenology, i.e., the assemblage of spontaneously acquired 
experiences and observed facts, such as have been described and 
presented by a large number of witnesses of every time and place. 

2. The modality of the processes by which the passage from the super- 
conscious to the conscious is effected. 

3. The Techniques which have served, and still serve, to create and promote 
that passage. These include the various external and inner practices 
associated with the different religions, as well as those exercises which, 
though known by a variety of names, may be grouped under the generic 
title of Yoga. 

4. The immediate results and the subsequent effects proceeding from them. 

5. The methods for alerting dangers and redressing potential damage caused 
by the "descent" or by the irruption of transpersonal energies. 

6. The ways of making better and more fruitful use of these realizations and 

Let us first of all consider the various modalities referred to above, by which the 
superconscious elements and activities effect passage into the field of 


Here a distinction must be made between the intuition as a psychic function and 
the results of its action, that is, the intuitions which have different 
characteristics. The commonly given definition of the word is etymologicallv 
derived from "in-tueri", meaning to see into. It is the sight, the immediate 
perception of an object apprehended in its individual reality. As a specific, 
autonomous cognitive function, the intuition is widely known and has been 
recognized in both the East and the West. 


Self-styled scientific psychology, on the contrary, has not acknowledged its 
validity as a medium of consciousness, owing to its restricted and unilateral 
conception of the field and methods of science, or has identified it with direct 
sensuous perception of external stimuli. But a reaction against this unjustified 
exclusivism has materialized and is continuing. The two major champions of the 
validity and value of intuition have been Bergson and Keyserling. Though 
regarded and classed as philosophers, they both possessed an exceptionally 
discriminating psychic sense based on the intuition, and in Keyserling's case, on 
a profound capacity for empathy and self-identification with others. They thus 
made invaluable contributions to the knowledge of the human mind, 
contributions which the new scientific psychology will have to take duly into 

In the strictly psychological field, credit is due to Jung for affirming the 
existence and validity of the intuition as a specific and autonomous psychic 
function. He says this about it: 

I regard intuition as a basic psychological function. It is the function that 
mediates perceptions in an unconscious way. Everything, whether outer or inner 
objects or their relationships, can be the focus of this perception. The peculiarity 
of intuition is that it is neither sense perception, nor feeling, nor intellectual 
inference, although it may also appear in these forms. In intuition a content 
presents itself whole and complete, without our being able to explain or discover 
how this content came into existence. Intuition is a kind of instinctive 
apprehension, no matter of what contents. Like sensation, it is an irrational 
function of perception. As with sensation, its contents have the character of 
being given, in contrast to the "derived" or "produced" character of thinking and 
feeling contents. Intuitive knowledge possesses an intrinsic certainty and 
conviction, which enabled Spinoza (and Bergson) to uphold the scientia intuitiva 
as the highest form of knowledge. Intuition shares this quality with sensation, 
whose certainty rests on its physical foundation. The certaintv of intuition rests 
equally on a definite state of psychic "alertness" of whose origin the subject is 

Page 413, Psychological Types, C. C. Jung. (Bollinger Series XX, Princeton 
University Press, 1971.) 

He terms it irrational, a designation that lends itself to misunderstanding, since it 
could be interpreted as contrary to reason, whereas in reality it is simply 
different, but not in opposition. It might well be called pararational, or, better, 
trans -rational. 

The types of intuition are three in number. There are first of all the sensory 
intuitions associated with the conscious perception of visual, auditory, tactile, 
etc., impressions produced by stimuli originating in the environment. This class 


need not detain us, as it is limited to personal psychic levels and does not 
concern the superconscious. 

Then we have intuitions of ideas, in the Platoisic sense, and since these come 
from a higher region than that in which the ordinary mind functions, they may 
be considered to be transpersonal. The same can be said of the third kind of 
higher intuition, that is to say the aesthetic, the religious, the mystical and even 
the scientific (for instance, those of higher mathematics). This denotes the 
difference between the personal psychological and the transpersonal life. 

Intuitions present themselves to the consciousness, or are perceived by it, in two 
ways. The first, which adheres more closely, to the etymological meaning, can 
be described as the opening of an "inner eye", thus permitting the "sight" or 
perception of some reality inaccessible to normal mental vision. The other way 
is characterized by a brilliant, lightning-like flash of light, which, "descending" 
into the field of consciousness, is perceived by the "I", the centre of 
consciousness at its normal level or "seat". A common and specific 
characteristic of intuitions is their "authenticity". They convey the perception of 
their object in its totality, like an organic whole, and thereby differ from the 
mental consciousness, which is analytical. Keyserling points this out clearly in 
the following passage from De la pensee aux sources: 

Man, like all animals, is intimately linked to the total mass of beings and things, 
and if instinct is lacking in him or is so atrophied that he cannot depend upon his 
elementary impulses, then the human equivalent of instinct must intervene in 
order that man may freely orient himself in the COSMOS. In this sense only the 
intuitives are free: and that is why they alone provide all the great revealers, the 
leaders and the innovators. 

As Keyserling says, the intuition displays another specific characteristic, its 
orientation towards becoming, towards the future: 

The intuition penetrates the veils of the future and, therefore, of the possible. But 
reality is in perpetual transformation, and therefore only he is able to see it who 
grasps directly what from time to time is possible, and this in a double sense. 
Firstly, because above all the facts some 'possibilities' exist; and in the second 
place, because he perceives directly, among the possibilities, those which at 
times and in determined conditions, can be realized. Both can be derived only 
from a primordial interior experience of the all (totality). 

This points to the intuition's capacity to pass beyond the acquisition of 
knowledge about an object's every quality to capture its very essence, i.e., what 
it IS. Thus the intuition qualifies as one of the fields of investigation of the new 
psychology of Being, in which Maslow was the pioneer. 



That the imagination has a close relationship with the intuition is evidenced by 
the fact that intuitions often do not present themselves to the consciousness in an 
abstract, simple and "pure" way, but rather in the guise of images. This entails a 
primary task of distinguishing the content, the essence, the idea inherent in an 
intuition from the form, the vestments, so to speak, which it assumes. The 
character of the form being symbolic, the complex and important question of 
symbolism arises. As I have dealt with this elsewhere I shall limit myself here to 
emphasizing the twofold and, in a certain sense, contrasting nature and function 
of the symbol. It can both veil and reveal. When mistaken for the reality that it 
expresses, it veils it and is thus a source of illusion. When recognized for what it 
is, a means of expression, it constitutes a useful and at times indispensable aid to 
"catching" and then illuminating a transcendental reality. 

Independently of its cognitive function as a means and vehicle of the intuition, 
the imagination displays several other and different aspects. There is first of all 
simple reproductive imagination, that is, the vehicle of memory-pictures of 
sensations and impressions already experienced (mnemonic images). While the 
visual is the most frequent of these, memory images of other sense-mediated 
impressions abound, the most important being the aural. Latent and stored in 
what may be termed the "records of the unconscious", they can surface 
spontaneously into consciousness, or be re-evoked by the will. The capacity to 
store and recall images is immense, one might say practically unlimited. Under 
certain conditions (hypnotic and feverish states) detailed memories of events 
occurring in early childhood can rise to the surface of consciousness. There are, 
again, the prodigies of memory exhibited by some great orchestral conductors 
(notably Toscanini) whose ability to remember entire symphonies and operas 
enabled them to conduct a work without reference to the score. Equally 
surprising is the way some advanced chess players can visualize the positions 
and moves of the pieces and play a number of simultaneous games without 
seeing the boards. Then there is creative imagination: its great importance is 
insufficiently recognized and its power little utilized, especially in education. As 
I shall be enlarging on this later when dealing with creativity, I wish at this point 
simply to make a passing reference to dreams, which are a mixed product of the 
two types of imagination: reproductive and creative. 


One of the ways in which the superconscious manifests most frequently in the 
consciousness is illumination, which follows the opening of the "inner eye". 
Although intuition and illumination have a close affinity, each presents points of 
difference. In a general way an intuition can be said to be an illuminative flash 
concerning some particular aspect or manifestation of Reality. But illumination 


is something more expansive and enduring; it is a vision that reveals the 
essential nature and synthetic unity of the whole of Reality, or of some of its 
major aspects. It is the perception of a "light" which, emanating from Reality 
itself, is different from physical light. Much evidential testimony relating to this 
experience is contained in William James' Varieties of Religious Experience and 
Winslow Hall's Observed Illuminates. This type of illumination may be regarded 
as the revelation of divine immanence, of the unity of the Universal Life as it 
manifests through myriads of forms. Its most pertinent description is that 
contained in Bock X of the Bhagavada Gita, in which it is termed the 
"Revelation of the Universal Form". 

A number of poets have had and tried to express this experience of illumination, 
the greatest of them being Dante, who fills the "Paradise" of his Divine Comedy 
with expressions of light. At the beginning of the Canto he clearly claims to 
have undergone the ineffable experience of the loftiest Light, the light that 
pervades the highest level, the "heaven" closest to the Supreme Reality which is 

In the consciousness of its percipients, manifestation of the light assumes 
different aspects; or rather, different aspects of light dominate according to the 
individual, since they are not separate but interpenetrate and fuse in varying 
proportions. Sometimes, as in the case of Tagore, the cognitive aspect is 
overriding. In the Christian as well as the Eastern mystics it is associated with 
feelings of love and adoration. In others it arouses a sense of joy, which may 
reach ecstatic bliss. But, I repeat, it is a matter of the prevalence of one or other 
of these aspects. In general all are present to a certain extent. 


A type of illuminative experience different from those mentioned so far is the 
"flash" of consciousness, often a sudden perception, of what a human being is, 
in which an individual experiences a revelation of himself. This revelation can 
have various, sometimes opposite, features and effects. The first, of a strongly 
positive nature, is the vision of the wonderful potentialities latent or active on 
the superconscious levels. They can yield a dazzling revelatory flash of the 
spiritual Self. This is accompanied by a new understanding, a true 
comprehension, of the self and of others. The consciousness, while experiencing 
a sense of enlargement and expansion, is suffused by feelings of joy, goodness, 
love and gratitude. Even this revelation, however, if unexpected, sudden and 
over-intense, can produce undesirable and even unhealthy reactions. It can 
generate a sensation of excitation and exaltation. In cases where awareness of 
the difference between the spiritual Self and the personal "I" is lacking, the latter 
may attribute to itself the qualities and power of the former, with megalomania 
as the possible end product. 


The other, reverse, aspect of inner illumination is the revelation of the inferior, 
dark features of the personality, hitherto ignored or unrecognized, or more or 
less negated and repressed in the subconscious. They constitute what Jung calls 
the "shadow". When experienced without warning, this revelation can prove 
emotionally unbalancing, being often exacerbated by depressive states, fear and 
even despair. The prevention, or at least abatement, of such effects is responsive 
to a prior psychological preparation. The key to this preparation is a knowledge 
of depth psychology, which cushions the shock of surprise and assists the 
acceptance of the revelation by exposing the truth that the dark features of the 
personality form part of the general human condition. 

Other reactions, less extreme but still damaging, can be experienced at the 
emotional as well as the physical level, should the nervous system not tolerate 
the intensity, or "voltage", of the irruptive psycho-spiritual energies. I have 
written of this in my monograph, "Self-Realization and Psychological 
Disturbances", incorporated in Psycho synthesis - A Manual of Principles and 
Techniques, (N.Y., Hobbs, Dorman & Co., 1965). Here I shall confine myself to 
saying that in this case, also, a preventive aware -ness of the different levels of 
human nature, as afforded by "three dimensional psychology", can lessen and 
help tolerate the reactions in question, as well as indicate the methods of 
eliminating them. 



Inspiration and psycho-spiritual creation represent other types of relationship 
and interaction between the superconscious and consciousness. It is of 
importance to reach a realization of the differences existing between 
illumination, inspiration, and creation, and keep them clearly defined, as they 
are often confused, illumination can confer inspirations and often does so, but 
not always. With some mystics illumination remains subjective and may create a 
contemplative state. It often unleashes a rush of love and aspiration to become 
united with God, to fuse oneself with the Supreme Reality; but it does not 
necessarily inspire external expression or instigate action. 

On the other hand there is the type of inspiration which takes place without 
illumination, elevation and expansion of consciousness. Most composers 
experience it at one time or another, but Mozart testified to the frequency with 
which it virtually "dictated" his works from early childhood on. A distinct 
difference is to be noted between inspiration and creation. In its deeper sense 
inspiration denotes the process whereby more or less elaborated contents pass or 
descend from transpersonal levels, from the superconscious, into the field of 
consciousness. Creation is, rather, a process whereby these contents are 


elaborated prior to their descent or appearance in consciousness. Creation is thus 
analogous to the conception and gestation of a new organism in the maternal 
uterus, inspiration being analogous to the birth or emergence of the creature. 

The "birth" can occur at various stages of the elaboration. In some cases the 
product enters the consciousness clearly formulated and complete, equipped to 
pursue an autonomous existence, as occurs biologically in the case of many 
animals. In others, it "surfaces" in a crude, unfinished state, needing to be 
worked on, sometimes extensively, by the conscious "I" until it acquires an 
adequate form. Analogously to physical parturition, the birth is sometimes 
spontaneous, rapid and easy, and accompanied by a feeling of joy. Yet it can be 
difficult, protracted and painful. 


In a certain sense this is the most important stage, for it gives significance to all 
that precedes it. Intuitions, illuminations and the revelations they produce must 
be properly understood if erroneous interpretations, faulty applications, and 
inappropriate and even harmful actions are to be avoided. These types of error 
are so frequently encountered that quotable examples of them abound. I shall, 
however, refer only to two extremely common classes; one consisting of 
misinterpretations of impulses or inner "commands" to act; the other of mental 
failure to grasp truths which appear in the field of consciousness. An 
outstanding example of the first type is a well-known episode in the life of St. 
Francis. Shortly after his conversion, while engaged in prayer, he heard an inner 
voice telling him to "go and restore my Church". Aware that there was nearby a 
small abandoned church, he interpreted the message as a divine command to 
repair it, which he proceeded to do. Only later did he understand that the words 
carried another and far wider meaning, the revelation concerned a mission to 
restore the Catholic Church, then passing through a phase of conspicuous 
decadence. How admirably he fulfilled this mission is common knowledge. 

An example of the second type, totally dissimilar in character, has to do with a 
very different sort of man. It concerns the flashing revelation that Friedrich 
Nietzsche had of the great cycles which unfold in the eternity of the cosmic 
becoming. He interpreted and expressed this revelation in his theory of the 
"eternal return". He argued that, time being without limit, while the number of 
existing material atoms, however vast, is finite, and their possible combinations 
are necessarily finite, it follows that sooner or later these combinations must 
recur and reappear as they were before, repeating the process ad infinitum. This 
discouraging doctrine was the natural outcome of an erroneous premise which 
held that the number of atoms was finite and invariable. Leaving aside the 
inherent absurdity of this hypothesis, it has been confuted by the demonstration 
by modern physics that the atoms of matter are continually disintegrating, to 


form new ones with different properties. What Nietzsche had intuited was the 
cyclic nature of cosmic manifestation, of the evolutionary process. This 
corresponds to the Eastern conception of the great cycles governing the 
appearance and disappearance of the worlds-in other words, of the periodic 
emergence of matter, its evolution in innumerable forms (Manvantara), and 
finally its reabsorption into the spirit, the unmanifest (Pralaya). Recent 
discoveries in astronomy of the formation and dissolution of stars and galaxies 
fully confirm this conception. Applying it to the human scale, Eastern beliefs 
interpret it in terms of the cyclic manifestation of the soul in a series of bodies 
(reincarnation). But none of that implies an identical return, but rather points to 
a reappearance in progressively finer forms, an evolution following an 
ascending spiral. This misconception on the part of Nietzsche affords a striking 
example of how an originally correct intuition can be misinterpreted. 

The psychological field is the scene of a never-ending series of problems 
associated with symbol interpretation, and one in which confusion and error are 
continually cropping up. A particularly fertile round for misunderstanding is the 
symbolism employed in dreams and myths, as well as that appearing in artistic 
and literary works. While these errors often derive from the preconceptions and 
private theories of those who interpret, a further difficulty stems from the 
proneness of symbols to carry different meanings at different levels of reality, 
without their coining into conflict or being mutually exclusive. This should 
always be borne in mind. 


1. See "Symbols of Transpersonal Experiences", Journal of Transpersonal 
Psychology, Spring, 1969; or Reprint 11, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation, 
N.Y. 1969. 


Smiling Wisdom 

by Roberto Assagioli, M.D. 

The ancients greatly appreciated laughter, which they looked upon as a divine 
gift and a helpful remedy. There never was a time when such a remedy was 
more needed than now.... 

There are, above all, three things which modern man must learn in order to 
become a sane and complete being: the art of resting, the art of contemplation, 
the art of laughing and smiling. Here we shall briefly consider the latter, and 
primarily its superior and spiritual aspects. 

The value of this art is manifold. Laughing has first of all a direct salutary effect 
upon our bodies. It is known that laughing produces rapid rhythmical 
contractions of the diaphragm. These rhythmical contractions have a healthful 
effect on the abdominal organs, stimulating their functions and activating the 
digestive secretions, especially those of the liver. They also modify the rhythm 
of breathing, stimulate the pulmonary function and the activity of the heart and 
thereby produce a better oxidization. The popular proverb which says that 
"laughing makes good blood" is therefore scientifically accurate. 

But the psychological value of laughter is much greater. Laughter removes the 
inner tension with consequent great relief to the individual; it brings with it a 
beneficent release and replaces the activity of tired faculties by the fresh use of 
others which had been little, too little, employed. When one is tired or excited, it 
is easier to relax through laughter than through outer inactivity, during which the 
mind continues to pursue "in the void" its feverish activity. 

Another useful function of laughter consists in it being a harmless and happy 
outlet for repressed tendencies, especially the tendency to play, which has 
remained alive in us and which we do not take enough into consideration. Too 
early and too harshly do we repress "the little child" which dwells in us with its 
fresh gaiety and its need for free and happy playing. But this urge to play can be 
re-awakened; it can bloom once more and exhilarate us, like a stream of fresh 
and pure water that issues from a mountain crevice. 

Laughter can, and should be extensively and "earnestly" applied in education. It 
has great value, especially in furthering intellectual development. Contrast, 
surprises, unexpected conclusions, which are among the most important causes 
producing laughter, awaken and sharpen our intellectual processes and thereby 
enable us to notice many things which otherwise might easily have escaped our 
attention. For instance, queer and ludicrous comparisons and resemblances, or 
the comical combination of facts which are different and heterogeneous, 


emphasize the common characteristics in things that are otherwise dissimilar, 
and the similarities in those which in other respects are quite different. They 
give us new perspectives, enable us to discover the curious relationship existing 
between various groups of facts, thereby sharpening our faculty of observation, 
and bringing new ideas to birth in us; in short, they render our intellectual 
mechanism more active and more alert. 

This stimulating influence is, paradoxically, associated with a restful one. The 
nervous discharge produced by laughter diminishes excessive intellectual 
tension and re-establishes the balance upset by too intense effort. 

It is often desirable — if one knows how to do it — to teach pupils in ways that 
will make them laugh, for laughter has a property which is very useful, — that of 
increasing the pupil's attention. As is well known, one of the main difficulties in 
teaching lies precisely in attracting and holding the student s attention and 
keeping him interested in the things he is being taught. Equally great is the value 
of laughter for understanding and remembering the things learned. Modern 
psychology has proved how wrong it is to make a student learn by heart, and 
memorize mechanically, abstract definitions instead of showing him by concrete 
examples the nature and the practical consequences of a fact or a group of facts. 
The comical can be of real help in this, owing to the precision and the vivacity 
of the images and ideas it arouses. 

Thanks to its mnemonic value laughter is very useful in facilitating the study of 
arid subjects that are based primarily on memory. There exists, for instance, a 
French book on anatomy in which the subject is dealt with amusingly, and I 
recall having used it with pleasure when I studied that dry science. In the same 
way can the amusing Chemistry in Verses by Alberto Cavaliere be of great aid 
in remembering the properties of various chemical substances. 

Laughter can be particularly helpful in the teaching of languages, by rendering 
alive their study which is so boring and dry if they are taught according to the 
pedantic grammatical method still in use in many schools. In conclusion, our 
motto should be study and teach with joy. 

Laughter can also have great moral and spiritual value. I said "can have", for 
assuredly not every kind of laughter has that quality. It is therefore necessary to 
distinguish clearly between the different types and "levels" of laughter. There is 
the vulgar, gross laughter, a simple enjoyment of the instincts which, alas, is 
only too widespread. Then there are sarcasm, contempt, mockery, which can be 
called "acidified laughter" and which may produce dangerous psychological 
auto-intoxication. Then there is, finally, the simple inoffensive, comical 
laughter, such as is produced by puns, limericks, etc., which has no moral value 
and does not pretend to have any. 


The spiritual value of laughter depends on the intention of the one who arouses 
it. There exist, for instance, literary expressions of the comical, such as satire, 
parody and comedy which sometimes can have social and ethical value if their 
purpose is to denounce hypocrisy and immorality or to unmask pretensions and 
vanities. Remarkable examples of this function of the comical are Moliere's 
comedies and Orwell's satires. 

This leads on to the higher and spiritual aspects of true humour. It is very 
difficult to define humour because of its subtle and elusive nature and because it 
assumes different forms and colours itself with countless shades. However, 
without imprisoning it in a formula, it is possible to indicate its most outstanding 
characteristics. Let us quote first some apt remarks by Guido Stacchini: 

Humour is like an intimate smile of the soul which, if one knows how to feel it, 
never becomes exhausted and never peters out; it is a superior joy where the best 
part of ourself feels itself raised to a higher level and experiences the entire 
spiritual satisfaction of being, at the same time, actor and judge. 

The individual adopts a humorous attitude especially towards himself, as a 
means to overcome suffering, that is to say, he succeeds in treating himself as if 
he were a child, and at the same time he adopts toward that capricious and 
irresponsible child the superior role of the experienced adult. 

This means has a wider application relative to the lives of other people. When 
the adult recognizes the vanity of the interests and sufferings which seem 
important to the child (in him), he ridicules them, and thus puts things into their 
right place, giving them the value which belongs to them. In those cases the 
adult is the humorist, the child is the average human being, or the public. 

These subtle remarks by Stacchini help us to understand and appreciate the great 
spiritual value of humour. The pains and anxieties which harass man, the big 
and little mistakes he makes unceasingly, derive largely from his passionate 
attachment to persons and to things; they are due also to his total lack of the 
sense of proportion which induces him to attribute enormous importance to 
things that are vain, empty and artificial, and he therefore neglects the things 
that are great and precious, the things that are real and eternal. 

The noble function of humour is precisely to dissipate those illusions, to 
devaluate the objects of those attachments, to unmask that ignorance, to put 
things and persons back where they belong. Humour can do this because as 
Plato with deep intuition expressed it "Ridiculous is he who does not know 


One of the human weaknesses which lends itself best to the arrows of humour 
and which deserves them most, for it is so strongly rooted and so widespread 
that it can be found even in people of real value is vanity. The adult, through the 
mere fact of being one, generally entertains the strange illusion that he has 
reached his goal. He is satisfied with himself and it does not occur to him that, 
as soon as he has finished school he should enter the greater and real school of 
life, that he should "take himself in hand" and begin his self-education. Instead, 
as Stacchini so well expresses it, "the age which is supposed to be the age of 
reason is the one where one begins to commit serious stupidities." 

How blinding vanity is! As Schopenhauer says: "As unfailingly as the cat begins 
to purr when its back is stroked, so unfailingly does one see a sweet ecstasy 
appear on a man s face who is praised, particularly when the praise concerns his 
pretensions, even if such praise is a flagrant lie." 

Vanity often is accompanied by presumption which, among other ways, shows 
itself by contempt for those who are a little lower on the social ladder and by 
flattery toward those who are at its top. These pretentious people behave as did 
the glass lamp of which Rabindranath Tagore tells in one of his fine and 
profound aphorisms contained in "Stray Birds" 

While the glass lamp rebukes the earthen for calling it cousin, the moon rises 
and the glass lamp with a bland smile, calls her "My dear, dear sister ." 

Then there are cases where those that are small seek to raise themselves by 
belittling and lowering those who are great, but their efforts are in vain, for their 
ridicule and contempt fall back upon themselves, as Tagore expresses it in 
another of his Stray Bird aphorisms: 

The learned say that your lights will one day be no more, said the firefly to the 
stars. The stars made no answer. 

A weakness which often appears comical is fear... and a common form is 
anxiety about the future. How many needless worries men create for themselves! 
Their pessimistic previsions and excessive precautions are wittily expressed and 
derided in this Tuscan saying: "Don't bandage your head before it gets hurt." 

Still another kind of fear is worry about the opinion of others. How often people 
poison their lives by anxiously trying to avoid any blame or criticism! Yet. the 
impossibility of satisfying everybody has been known since time immemorial. 
We read in the Dhammapada, a Buddhist text which originated several centuries 
before Christ: 


This saying is ancient, oh Atula, and by no means of today: he who is silent is 

spoken ill of, and he who talks much is spoken ill of. 

Also he who talks little is blamed. Nobody in this world is exempt from 


Among numerous mistakes a subtle and not obvious, but no less real, one is 
made by certain intellectuals and philosophers who spend themselves in vain 
discussions of purely academic interest, when there are urgent spiritual tasks to 
be accomplished as long as true liberty has not been achieved. This folly was 
brilliantly derided by Buddha: 

It is said in the Majyhimanikaya that the monk Malunkjaputta one time went to 
see the Buddha and expressed to him his dissatisfaction about his not telling his 
disciples whether the world was eternal or non-eternal, infinite or finite, etc.... 
The monk went so far in his effrontery as to present to the Buddha a challenge. 
He demanded that the Buddha should either reply with a yes or no to his 
questions, or to admit that he was incapable of so doing. In the former case, the 
monk declared himself disposed to remain his disciple, in the latter he would 
return to the life of the world. The Buddha, without losing his serenity for a 
single instant, answered him thus: A man has been wounded by a poison arrow, 
and his friends call the doctor. If the wounded man said, "I shall not permit this 
arrow to be torn out of me before knowing who the man is that has wounded me, 
which is his family, what he looks like, whether he is tall or short, dark or fair, 
and where he lives," he would certainly die before it were possible to help him. 
This exactly would happen to one who, before entering the road to liberation, 
would demand that he be given a reply to all his questions. 

If we ask ourselves what the typical attitude of the humorist is, we can reply that 
he regards human life on earth essentially as a theatrical performance, a 
"comedy" in which everyone must play his part as well as he possibly can, 
without taking it too seriously, and, above all, be ever conscious that he is 

Spiritual humour is a paradoxical combination of an attitude of serene and 
detached observation, the feeling of the oneness of life, and deep sympathy for 
and compassion with others. "The humorist," writes Prof. Fanciulli in his essay 
on humour, "is to the highest degree gifted with the ability of living the life of 
others.... He feels the ties which bind all things. Plurality is relative.., perhaps 
only seeming; all parts are linked to each other by ties which cannot be broken. 
... An admirable synthesis is effected...; the pain and pleasure of others become 
the pain and pleasure of the self. This sympathy has the quality of tenderness. It 
partakes of the sufferings of the weak, of the conquered, of the poor." 


But this sympathy is always conscious and serene and does not prevent what 
Fanciulli justly regards as the typical attitude of humour, namely the smile. All 
this and more hides and reveals itself in the smile of the liberated Buddha, a 
smile full of compassion, but a smile born of the certainty that the way to 
salvation exists, and that all human beings, sooner or later, will reach liberation 
and bliss. 

It should be stated that all things, even the best, can be misused, and it is 
precisely the task of "the art of living" to use all things to good purpose and in 
right proportions. As to humour, let us remember that its function is similar to 
that of salt in food, a seasoning which gives savour to the life which is our 
portion, but that salt in itself is no nourishment. 

From another angle, humour is the contemplation of the passing pageant of life; 
it is not direct and active participation in events. However, the complete human 
being, the true sage, is not he who confines himself to contemplation, and even 
less he who is wholly absorbed in and by action. He is a sage who, while living, 
suffering and beneficently working with one part of himself, keeps his higher 
and real Self a detached and smiling spectator. 

To attain such a state of inner freedom, it is necessary to use humour first of all 
toward oneself, gently making fun of one's little personal self which is so full of 
its own importance, giving itself such airs and taking itself so seriously, and 
which is touchy, restless and suspicious. 

What Giuseppe Zucca has so aptly called "the steel cabin" of the self cannot 
long resist — however hard and thick its walls may be — the subtle penetrating 
and consuming flame of humour; sooner or later its door opens and man can free 
himself from that narrow and suffocating prison. When that happens, one can 
say that the greatest achievement has been reached. The soul spreads its wings 
and joyously, with a divine smile, unites itself with the other souls, with all 
creatures and with God. 


Notes on Education (1968) 

by Dr. Roberto Assagioli 



I. The Meaning of Education (Semantics) 

II. The Educational Crisis 

III. The New Trends and Education 

1 . Dynamism and a Positive Viewpoint 

2. Mental Development 

3. Extraversion 

4. Unification and Synthesis 

IV. Psychosynthesis in Education 

A. Individual psychosynthesis 

B. Inter-personal Psychosynthesis 

V. Education in the Family 

1 . Pre-natal Education 

2. Understand the True Nature of the Baby 

3. Individual Psychological Differences 

4. The Influence of the Characteristics of the Future 

VI. Differential Education 

VII. Education in the School 

VIII. Spiritual Education 

IX. Methods of Spiritual Education 

X. Meditation in Education 

1. Concentration 

2. Observation 

3. Visualization 

4. Reflective Meditation 

5. Receptive Meditation 

6. Creative Meditation 


The subject of education is of such fundamental importance, of such vital 
interest to everyone of us, and covers such a vast field with all of its varied 
aspects, that we feel it opportune to devote this study to it (even though it is 
merely a. partial one) and to train ourselves in reflective meditation on such a 


subject, and to. indicate, in particular, the lines of development and objectives 
along which we must concentrate our creative action. 

It is difficult to assess the outer results of our meditation especially with regard 
to their wider and more long-term effects, but we may trust, or even better, we 
can have a strong faith that such results are assured, and inevitable, because 
energy follows thought, and thought directed by the will, and animated, by 
feeling, is creative . 

In the midst of the world events that are rapidly unfolding, and of the whirl and 
pressure of outer activity, we must remember that all visible, material events 
have inner causes stemming from the imagination from thought , and from the 
will. Hold this firmly in your awareness and live accordingly; spread its 
acceptance; apply it with persistence in promoting the new forms that will be 
taking the place of tile old ones. 

I. The Meaning of Education (Semantics) 

The first thing we must do in order to approach our subject (as must be done in 
dealing with any topic) is to define its true nature and meaning in clear terms; 
i.e. to make a. terminological (semantic) specification. It is particularly 
necessary to do this in the case of education so that we may become aware of the 
existence of a basic misunderstanding, or confusion that must be eliminated. 

Education has often been considered as synonymous to "instruction," i.e. the 
imparting of knowledge and information. Up until a short time ago and even 
now) the majority of schools of all levels has aimed, more or less openly, at such 
a goal, and has intended to carry out such a function. That education, in the true 
meaning of the word, is something quite different, something that is much more 
inclusive, and that in a certain sense, even has the opposite meaning ! 

Instruction means to infuse, to put something in that is lacking, to fill a. vacuum. 
The etymological meaning of the word "education", however, means to "draw 
out" (from the Latin "educere") lead, to draw out that which is within; i.e. to 
bring to light what is hidden, to render actual what is only potential, to develop. 

It also, means to draw out of conditions that limit; in other words, it is the 
favouring of a process of growth. Of course, education also includes the 
imparting of ideas, but this must be seen only as a first step or stage, as an 
instrument or necessary means, and not as an end in itself. Both aspects and 
concepts are included in the common usage of the word "education", and this 
easily creates confusion and misunderstandings. It would, therefore, be useful to 
distinguish between them and to always specify, for example, by using the terms 
"informative education" and "formative education". 


II. The Educational Crisis 

The distinction between the two concepts offers us the key to understanding the 
crisis now existing in the field of education. 

The concept of "imparting something from the outside", along with the 
corresponding traits of authority and control on the teacher's side and the 
imposition of programs, is in direct contrast to the tendencies now rapidly 
coming to the fore. 

The above-mentioned contrast has produced a revolution against traditional 
educational methods. New methods shifting the "centre of gravity" from the 
teacher to the pupil, have teen proposed and put into practice. 

Psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on the harmful effects of repression and 
censure, has also substantially contributed to this radical change. Thus, great 
progress has been made; children and young people are now treated with more 
understanding and are given greater opportunities to develop more freely. That 
the revolution in the field of education (as what almost always happens with 
revolutions) has gone too far, arriving at the opposite extreme in some cases. 
The elimination of all discipline, every rule, all help on the teacher's part has 
produced, results that are undesirable and at times, even disastrous, both within 
the family and at school; disorder, anarchy, lack of self discipline, and violent 
behaviour have been its effects. Furthermore, the fact that has most astounded 
the "reformers" has been that this regime of freedom without limits has proven 
unnatural; they have come to realize that even the children themselves do not 
want it and often ask for guidance, precise rules, a. certain amount of discipline 
and order, and that they most of all want "models" and living examples. 'That 
this fact should not be surprising. It has been found that even adults find it 
difficult to bear freedom, and while they often fight to obtain it, they basically 
do not really want it; they are ready to give it up and even seek to run. away 
from it. This paradoxical behaviour helps us understand many recent events and 
has been pointed out in Erich Fromm's books Escape From Freedom (amongst 

The poor results caused by exaggerated applications of the new educational 
methods have given rise to a counter reaction, but this has not solved, the 
problem. All attempts to return to the "good old methods of the past" are in fain, 
and are destined to fail, both due to the fact that those methods were not really 
"good", and because their imposition has been rendered impossible given the 
profound changes that have occurred in the psychology of the new generation 
and in the environmental conditions. In the meantime, the rapid increase in the 
number of students, the tumultuous extension of "mass education" in the form of 
compulsory education (something which is both desirable and necessary), and 


the resulting scarcity of competent teachers and adequate schools, have created, 
new and serious difficulties and complications. All this explains the current 
crisis in the field of education, where the old and the new are found in different 
proportions, side by side, and often, in sharp contrast with one another. The 
more enlightened educators have recently recognized the need of finding a 
"middle road" and have been carrying out experiments in this direction. This is 
constructive and promising progress. But to arrive at truly satisfactory methods, 
one must take into full consideration the new tendencies emerging today, 
tendencies that continue to characterize, more and more, the future direction. 

What has been said until now indicates how important it is to discern and to 
establish the main lines along which an education adequate to the new 
conditions and needs, must be developed. But first let us specifically deal with 
the defect considered most serious in present- day education., that is, the 
excessive importance given to scholastic education and the consequent relative 
lack of education in the family, thus giving rise to serious deficiencies. In part, 
this is due to the already mentioned confusion, between "instruction" and true 
education, and in part to the real difficulties which exist in carrying out an 
adequate family education. These are made worse by the present conditions 
which often deprive children of the attention, and cooperation that is their due. 
This is particularly true for the father because his time and energies are very 
often absorbed by the pressing demands of supporting his family. But the deep 
conviction that children cannot do without an adequate education within the 
heart of the family, and that it is their right to receive it, should induce all 
parents, to face those difficulties and to seek seriously to overcome them. 

The great and often decisive importance attributed by psychoanalysts to the first 
years of life and to their imprint on the future personality, has been 
acknowledged by many educators. Not only do traumatic experiences, brought 
to light by psychoanalytic research, seriousl7 hinder all future development and 
the formation of the personality, but so does the lack of certain, indispensable 
positive elements, such as love, understanding, training, guidance, an a sense of 
security as well. 

III. The New Trends and Education 

1. Dynamism and a Positive Viewpoint 

The close interrelationship between these two trends permits us to deal with 
them together. Both are the incentives of the "active methods" of the new 
education and are evident in it. These include: 


a. Direct contact with nature and with living beings :earth, water, plants, 
animals, and related activities... to sow, cultivate and raise domestic 

b. Specific material for didactic purposes (Frobel, Montessori, Decroly, 
etc.), or objects, tools and machines for general use. 

c. Cooperation in family activities and the carrying out of domestic chores. 

d. The execution of set projects (for example, a school building was 
constructed by a group of teachers and students in a mountainous region, 
of the USA, using tree trunks. Work makes them use their intelligence and 
acquire a vast field of concepts and many manual capabilities.) 

e. Group activities of various kinds experiments and training in self- 
government of the school community, etc. All this can be put into the 

These methods constitute real progress and improvement in education, and we 
can predict that their techniques will be perfected and used more and more 
widely as time goes on. They are in harmony with the other trends of unification 
and synthesis, mental development, extraversion, and can always be combined 
and integrated to an ever greater extent. 

Dynamism also has another effect. A change is now occurring in education and 
is one that will continue to be stressed the traditional, unrealistic ideal of a static 
"model" is being replaced by the concept of life as a process of development and 
of maturation. The goal of a. theoretical normality accepted up to now, along 
with its resulting "conformism", will give way to the appreciation of creativity , 
and education will be considered a continuous and limitless process. This means 
that the education of a young person, rather than ending with high school, or 
even with university courses, must continue in the form of self -education for the 
rest of his life. 

The active methods, permeated, and rendered more alive by dynamism, also 
offer (in addition to their generally acknowledged effectiveness) a specific 
advantage of even greater value: they aid in the development of the will and of 
its right use. 

The recognition, that the will is of utmost importance, that it is the most direct 
expression of the Self in the personality, that its power is wonderful, but that its 
misuse is responsible for many dangers, will enable the will to be given a central 
place in education. 

We find in the above one of the main points of contrast between the past 
educational methods and those that are new. In the past, educators have aimed at 
dominating the child's will and at making him obedient. Obedience was the 


fundamental virtue impressed upon the child. It is merely redundant to point out 
the poor results of such an education, all the more because it has now been made 
impossible by the absolute refusal of today's youth to accept it! They may seek 
guidance, help and cooperation, and they often ask for it (and educators should 
be ready to give it with competence); they can be persuaded to change their 

The education of the Will implies a clear concept of what the will is and of its 
various stages: 

1 . Evocation of the will 

2. Its right orientation 

3. Its wise and effective application through use of appropriate techniques. 

Special importance will be given to the development of the Will-to-Good and of 
the Will-to-Serve . 

2. Mental Development 

This does not only consist of a quantitative increase in mental activity, but refers 
to different ways of using the mind, bringing about a. change in quality. Up until 
a short while ago, these ways were the privilege of a few philosophers and 
scientists but now that they are beginning to be diffused to the general public it 
is necessary that they be adequately acknowledged, more widely adopted and 
applied, in the field of education. The various activities and applications of the 
mind may be briefly described as follows: 

1. The first function of the mind is to synthesize the sensorial impressions so 
that the individual may acquire an intelligent experience of the so-called, 
outer world. In this regard, the mind can be considered, as a sixth sense, a 
common sense, that coordinates and interprets the messages transmitted 
by the other five. 

2. The second function is to collect information, to render the fruits of the 
experience of humanity one's own, and thus to avail oneself of the cultural 
inheritance of the past. This goal is reached through study, and the 
imparting of this kind of knowledge was the principal task of the teachers 
of the past. 

3. The third., and higher type of mental activity is that which elaborates the 
material gathered during the preceding phases, coordinates it, draws 
conclusions and applies them; this may be called, to think or to reflect . 

4. The fourth function of the mind is to be receptive to intuitions, to 
understand and interpret them with accuracy, and then to formulate them 
with precision. 


5. The fifth is the creative function. The dynamic and creative power of 
thought discovered recently — (it would be more exact to say 
"rediscovered") is being more and more acknowledged and put to use, but 
it is being used, especially for the attainment of personal goals (the 
achievement of wealth success etc.). One of the tasks of the new 
education will be to train the individual in the use of techniques, that 
harness this power for constructive goals and for the service of humanity. 

The relationships between the mind and the other psychological functions, 
impulses, emotions, feelings and. imagination, are all but satisfactory, and pose 
problems of fundamental importance to education. 

In the majority of humanity, the mind is subordinate to the impulses and the 
emotions and is used to justify them and to aid in achieving; their ends, One can 
say in such a case that the mind is the servant of desire . But sooner or later the 
unsatisfactory and often disastrous results of this erroneous relationship provoke 
a crisis which is then followed by either gradual or sudden changes. The mind 
reawakens in the individual the understanding of the nature and effects of his/her 
emotions and impulses. He/she becomes conscious of the distortions of reality of 
the illusions thus created, and of the errors of judgment, evaluation and 
behaviour caused by them. 

It is probable that two results come from this recognition: the first which is 
"good", leads to the development of objectivity and of the intellectual capacity 
that characterize the scientific spirit. Along this line, one of the most recent 
advances made is in. the refinement of the scientific method, due to the work of 
the new science of semantics. 

The second result, which is not a. desirable one, is an undervaluing of the 
emotions, feelings and imagination, leading to mental pride, to one sidedness 
and to the repressions that characterize the "arrogant intellectual" type. 

Education must have two major goals with relation to the mind; to promote its 
development and active use, and to establish the right proportions as well as a. 
constructive cooperation between the mind and the other aspects of man. What 
is most necessary in this regard is the harmonious combination of intelligence 
and love, leading to loving understanding and to the development of wisdom. 

3. Extraversion 

It is not surprising that this tendency, favoured as it is above all other 
characteristics of our epoch, is pre-eminent — so much so that it has become 
exaggerated and has taken, on excessive forms in some cases. The intensity of 
the force aimed, at gaining personal success, wealth, social position the 


exaggerated, importance given to the creation of things, excessive noises of 
every kind, the mania of speed, without any real purpose — these are facts that 
produce serious imbalances, and are the causes of the physical, nervous and 
psychic disturbances so widespread at this time, and of the social conflicts and 
decline in the areas of morality and spirituality. This can be considered one of 
the most serious problems at this moment. 

It is especially in this field that education must carry out an equalizing and 
constructive work. All suitable means must be used to educate young people 
toward a. simple life, one that conforms to the various rhythms of nature and of 
life itself, and to their own harmonious alternation of activity and rest. The 
recognition and appreciation of inner realities will be promoted with equal 
persistence, thus helping young people to explore and to conquer the 
psychological, as well as the spiritual world, by teaching them the appropriate 
techniques and training them in their use. 

The first step (a comparatively easy one) consists in teaching the inner make up 
of man, thus enabling young people to know themselves first as human beings 
and then, each one, as a unique individual with, specific characteristics and 
particular gifts an potentialities. This teaching can be facilitated, by two 
important additions to the present programs: 

1 . Psychology, the science that studies man in his totality, should occupy the 
place that is its due — that of a major subject of study in every type and 
grade of school. This teaching can be started from the earliest years if 
presented in a suitable form. 

2. The normal interest that every individual has for himself makes him 
willingly accept the opportunity to learn how to know himself. In 
addition, the obvious usefulness of the techniques which aim to eliminate 
frustrations and to resolve conflicts within oneself and with, others will 
make students all the more willing to accept the training and then to make 
use of the techniques. 

3. No less interesting and attractive for young people is the learning of 
methods that enable them to use their psychological capabilities in a 
creative way — and to discover and give value to their own latent gifts. 
Many of these techniques can be taught and practiced, as psychological 
exercises in the schools. Among the most important are those concerning 
the various stages and types of meditation: concentration, visualization, 
reflective meditation, etc. 

4. Unification and Synthesis 

There is now an often sharp conflict between these tendencies and those of 
individualism separativeness, aggressiveness. The situation is complicated, by 


the fact that certain characteristics especially — the Positive Attitude , favour 
individualistic self-assertion. This helps to explain some contrasts existing in the 
present period of transition and confusion. Two opposite tendencies alternate 
and conflict with one another in many individuals: self- assertion as opposed to 
conformism by which one gains appreciation and success in. the world. Even the 
so-called, "anti-social" types form groups (gangs of youth, criminal 
associations); groups of various types are formed within every nation, and 
nations themselves unite in blocks; but these groups are often separative and in 
conflict among themselves. All this contributes to the present state of agitation, 
to the lack of security and to the conflicts to be found in every area. In spite of 
this the ideal of synthesis, world unification and the aspiration toward this ideal 
have been so strong as to inspire numerous activities which have as their goal 
the attainment of peace, mutual understanding and world cooperation. 

1. Eliminate, or at least lessen the separability, the combatitive and 
aggressive impulses and all that rouses and intensifies them; 

2. Actively favour the tendency toward synthesis: among young people, in 
families, schools and in communities; 

3. To call attention to and counter-balance excessive and erroneous 
manifestations of this tendency. 

IV. Psychosynthesis in Education 

The above-named characteristics, particularly the trend toward unification and 
synthesis, favour psychosynthesis in education . It has two aspects and fields of 

1. Synthesis in the individual (intrapersonal psychosynthesis) 

2. Synthesis between individuals (interpersonal psychosynthesis); and 
synthesis between the individual and various groups (group or social 

A. Individual psychosynthesis combines two main principles and objectives: 

1. The integration of the individual, that is: 

a. the development, in well-balanced, proportions, of all his/her 
psychological functions (sensation, feeling, thought, imagination, 
intuition, will, etc.). This requires an activation, and training of 
what is under-developed, and the control of that which is over- 
developed. It should be noted that control does not mean 
repression, but rather, wise regulation and use . 

b. The organization of these functions into a coordinated and 
harmonious activity. Care and special attention will be given, to the 
re-awakening of the existing qualities and energies of the 


superconscious level, and to their proper assimilation and use by 

the Self. This is in agreement with the broad, inclusive concept of 

what is "spiritual"; it is unnecessary to point out the value of this 

aspect of the human being. Furthermore, its development and use 

will be particularly necessary for several reasons: first, to fill in the 

void caused by the widespread departure from institutional 

religions and from their doctrines second, to demonstrate the 

existence of an inspirational, source available to all, and of a 

common ground upon, which all may meet and finally, to offer the 

justification and scientific interpretation of religious, aesthetic and 

illuminative experiences. 


2. To discover and to attain consciousness of an inner centre of self identity 

and the active use of its powers, particularly of the principal one: the 

WILL in order to affect inner integration and to promote effective outer 

action. This Centre is first experienced, as a personal, conscious self, but 

then, this is later on recognized, as a reflection or projection of a Higher 

Spiritual Self, always present, even if not acknowledged., at the apex of 

the superconscious level. 

B. Inter-personal Psychosynthesis 

Individuals are not isolated, beings, they are related to other individuals, groups 
and to all of humanity through many vital links This is true even if these links 
fail to be recognized or are denied by egocentric and separative attitudes; this 
gives a great and permanent importance that is strengthened, by the fact that 
such relationships are developing so rapidly. 

One distinctive characteristic of our society is the enormous increase in 
communications and the subsequent development of collaborations between 
individuals and groups. This is creating forms of cooperation, but also produces, 
at the same time, greater occasions for conflict. These developments, in addition 
to the new types of community being formed., indicate the need for a new 
science — the science of relationships — with its new, specific techniques. 

If it were our intention to write a treatise on education, the limited, preceding 
outline would require extensive development, but we have only wished, to offer 
it as an introduction, to the sections that will follow, in which some specific 
applications of education are examined., some of which are. already in use. 

V. Education in the Family 

The need for education within the family and its decisive importance in 
conditioning and in influencing the whole life of the child was previously cited.. 


This is en extremely difficult task and all parents as well as future parents should 
take this fact clearly into consideration and prepare themselves seriously to face 
the duties and responsibilities, that such a. task entails The most obvious 
difficulties are those due to the crisis that the family, considered, the basic 
human group or social unit is now passing through, a crisis that is part of the 
general, critical situation of humanity as a whole. 

In the past the family was closely-knit and ruled by the principle of authority. Its 
positive qualities were the love existing among its members, and the spirit of 
sacrifice that inspired, the parents. But this love was often not an enlightened, 
one; it was possessive and jealous, and relations with others were generally 
characterized by group selfishness and were therefore separative. Modern, 
conditions, however, are producing profound changes in the structure and 
functioning of the family unit and have loosened the ties that bind its members, 
sometimes to the point of dissolving them. 

The causes, both external and psychological, are varied. Dynamism and 
extraversion are creating a strong centrifugal force which is pushing family 
members out of the house. The father is often absorbed, in his work and in other 
outside activities, often to the point of exhaustion; the interests and jobs outside 
the family are on the increase for the mother while the children are involved in 
school and in extracurricular activities and in their own personal, group 
relationships. It has been said that the home is becoming little more than a 
garage! Even the man woman relationship has been undergoing a crisis 
stemming from the emancipation, of women from their traditional, submissive 
role and from their total absorption in their feminine duties. All this has its 
positive side, but it can also create exaggerations that give rise to difficult 
problems of adjustment. 

No less serious is the crisis between the older and the younger generations. 
Tensions and conflicts between the elderly and young people have not been 
lacking in the past. Turgeniev, for example, makes this situation the theme of his 
novel Fathers and Sons , but the current trend, tends to bring them, to the point of 
an acute and sometimes dramatic hostility. Apart from all that, in the education 
imparted (or that should be imparted) in the family, there is another fundamental 
difficulty, independent of time and place. Children are deeply influenced by the 
psychological life of their parents, and especially by their attitudes, complexes, 
and unconscious conflicts. Many psychologists and psychoanalysts have 
indicated the harmful and even disastrous consequences that children suffer. A 
particularly convincing description of this has been made by Frances G. Wickes 
in the chapter "Influence of Parents' Difficulties on the Child's Unconscious" 
from her excellent book The Inner World of Childhood . Naturally, one cannot 
ask parents to be fault-free nor can parents ask it of themselves. But a sincere 


acknowledging of these faults, along with the awareness of the dangers that they 
bring to their children should spur parents on to recognize their own 
responsibility, and to do all that is within their power to reduce them to a 
minimum, if not to eliminate the consequences entirely There is much that they 
can do. Deeper knowledge of man's nature, brought in. by dynamic psychology 
is now available to the public, and this should encourage farsighted. parents to 
acquire basic concepts concerning the laws governing the life of the psyche, 
child psychology, and methods for constructively influencing human behaviour. 
There are many good, non technical books on such subjects, and one can seek 
advice from an expert when necessary. But much more should be done, and. on 
a more long-term scale. Education for parenthood should hold an important 
place in all schools serving adolescents. There are already some beginnings in 
this direction, and one may expect that their full, development will be seen in the 
future. At the same time, its very importance demands that it be given priority- 
among the urgent, educational tasks in the present period of transition. Only a 
few of the main points may be cited here: 

1. Pre-natal Education 

It has been shown that the psychological condition of the mother during 
pregnancy strongly influences the future child. For example, it has been 
observed that undesired children often manifest suicidal tendencies later on in 
life. Therefore, the mother's psychological attitude and the atmosphere of the 
family surrounding her, should be as positive and as constructive as possible. 

2. Understand the True Nature of the Baby 

The belief that a baby is a simple, "transparent" being tends to make one feel 
that it is easy to understand, him/her. In reality, this is not so, as shown by the 
diverse and contrasting concepts put forth regarding the nature of the baby. One 
of these which originated primarily with Rousseau, considers the baby as 
intrinsically "good", a natural, healthy being who would develop normally and 
harmoniously if he/she were not subjected, to the warping influences of 
"civilization". Other educators, such as Maria Montessori, have also stressed in a 
less exaggerated way, the positive qualities and the great potentialities existing 
in every child. 

A completely opposite position is taken by Freud and other psychoanalysts who, 
in. describing the powerful instinctive impulses, conflicts and complexes 
existing in the child, have gone as far as to define him as "a creature who is 
perverse in many different ways". 

There are many books and magazines that deal with child psychology from 
different points of view. Their value varies a great deal, and it is not easy to find 


one's way in this field. These books are often concerned with the most obvious 
characteristics and forms of behaviour, ignoring the depths and the heights of 
human nature in spite of the fact that these are. also present in children and in 
adolescents. For example, in one of these books that is good in certain aspects, 
the authors (three eminent scholars) do not even mention the unconscious, the 
imagination, creativity, the will and spiritual experiences. But we can 
recommend, two books that can both be of great help in gaining a. new 
understanding of youth. The first is the Inner world of Childhood by Frances 
Wickes, and the second is The Recreation of the Individual by Dr. Hinkle 
(Harcourt, Brace New York, 1923) in which a chapter entitled "The Child" is 
particularly instructive. 

3. Individual Psychological Differences 

These are very important and should be given full attention, and consideration. 
There are three types: 

1. Psycho-sexual differences . These are greater than are generally 
acknowledged and can be noted already from early childhood. 

2. Different Psychological Types . (Both of these subjects are dealt with very 
well in Dr. Hinkle's book.) 

3. The Psycho-spiritual Constitution , the vocations, the specific and unique 
attitudes of each individual. 

4. The Influence of the Characteristics of the Future 

The reaction of children and youth to these increasing influences make them 
very different from the way today's adults were as children. This new, important 
fact should be taken into account constantly. 

Many of the "active methods" now used in the best progressive schools must be 
suitably applied by parents, both before their children reach school age, and 
then, later on, in combination and in harmony with the scholastic educational 

The specific and essential elements of family education are: 

a) Love 

It can seem obvious and natural to love ones own children, but in reality, to love 
in the right way is something that is extremely difficult. We must free ourselves 
from the widespread illusion that it is enough to "love", and must sincerely face 
up to the fact that there are many kinds of "love", some of which may be 
harmful and even destructive, possessive love, jealous love, anxious love have 


had, and still have, disastrous effects. The main duty of parents, therefore, is to 
acknowledge the necessity of learning the difficult art of loving wisely . 

b) Indirect Education 

There is a paradox in family education that parents should be aware of and 
always keep in mind. The most effective education does not consist in the direct 
and deliberate action on the child, but is accomplished by the constant influence 
of the "psychological atmosphere" that pervades, the house and through the 
powerful suggestion of the "living example" of the parents. This has often been 
emphasized and does not require explanation. But it is necessary to point out 
that the acceptance of this principle and its coherent application would create a 
real revolution in family education, shifting the emphasis from the children's 
behaviour to that of the parents. This is the logical consequence of the fact that 
the inner attitude and the behaviour of the parents create the "psychological 
atmosphere" and make them "examples" or "models" that inevitably' condition 
the children. 

This indirect education asks parents to: 

• Avoid all expressions of irritation, depression, fear and other negative 
thoughts and emotions in the presence of children. Above all, every bitter 
discussion caused by conflicts between the parents' points of views should 
be eliminated. 

• Abstain from "projecting" onto children one's own negative states of mind 
and aggressive impulses. 

These requests require much from parents, but a sincere and never-ending 
attempt to satisfy them is an expression of real love — a love that provides the 
necessary motive and strength. One further incentive is the recognition of the 
great benefit that this self-discipline gives to those who subject themselves to it. 
The paradoxical, but very real consequence to all of this, is that from this point 
of view, children oblige their parents to educate themselves ! 

One may add that where the atmosphere of the home is one of wise love, the 
family relationships will be regulated by understanding , patience , cheerfulness , 
and ordered activity . One of the things that parents must realize is that the so- 
called "naughtiness" of children is often the product of the unfavourable and 
unnatural conditions existing particularly in the large cities. They deprive the 
child of direct con tact with nature and an adequate freedom of movement and 
muscular activity that are essential for his/her normal life and development. As 
this need becomes more and more recognized, new concepts of city planning 
and changes in our way of life will be chosen with the aim of satisfying this 
need.. The parents who seek to penetrate into the inner life of their child have an 


even more difficult problem of understanding . In this case, one may always rely 
upon the help made available by the progress in the field of psychology, and by 
those advances expected in the future. 

Frequent and varied are those occasions which require the exercise of patience . 
Aside from the most obvious, the spontaneous expressions of children should be 
listened to with special attention, without the interruption of criticism. Their 
questions also merit adequate and precise answers; they constitute precious 
opportunities to give appropriate instructions to the specific and immediate need 
of the questioner. 

Cheerfulness needs little comment, other than the observation that it does not 
mean excitement or uncontrolled gaiety. It is a combination of harmony and 
good humour, qualities that this present period lacks; but one may expect them 
to be increasingly in evidence if there is truth to the assertion that "joy will be 
the fundamental note of the future". 

The value of ordered activity is obvious if we realize that in order to be trained 
for action and self-expression, children need, and even ask to be active. The 
acquisition of skill in action, and the sense of doing something useful, have great 
educational value and are essential to the whole development process. One 
should therefore ask children to carry out appropriate tasks. These include 
helping mother with domestic chores, thus permitting the child to feel 
"important" and training him/her for harmonious cooperation. 

Even these activities offer the wise parent countless opportunities to teach many 
subjects. Such cooperation, on the part of the child, should receive proper 
appreciation and even a tangible reward. 

VI. Differential Education 

A misunderstanding with regard to the meaning of democracy exists which is 
creating unfavourable conditions in the field of education, and which must 
therefore be pointed out and eliminated. It has its origins in an erroneous 
concept of "equality" that forms the basis of the democratic ideal. The true 
equality that democracy should foster is that of offering equal opportunities to 
all, independent of differences in social and financial position, sex, race and 
religion, and not the obviously erroneous ideas about the identicalness of all 
human beings. This equality of opportunity constitutes the essence of social 
justice and fully complies with the recognition of the varied and profound 
differences among human beings. The reality of these differences is evident and 
undeniable for any impartial observer, and an important branch of psychology 
(differential psychology) is dedicated to their scientific investigation. 


There are two main kinds of differences: 

1. Differences of type and of psychological attitudes; 

2. Differences of psychological and spiritual levels, and of "gifts". 

These differences tend to be on the increase now, but mental development and 
the positive attitude are revealed, at first, only in an advanced, minority. 
Education should fully take into account both of these kinds of differences, 
because they offer a foundation for democratic guidance and indicate the need 
for suitable educational materials and methods geared for individual differences. 

We will consider only the second type of differences here, due to the greater 
difficulties which they present. First, it is not easy to assess the true level of 
development of a child or adolescent; and second, it is not easy to offer the 
appropriate educational aids to the gifted, or to the highly-gifted in the forming 
of special schools or classes, because these often stir opposition among parents, 
school authorities and political groups who deem them "anti-democratic". On 
the contrary, one should clearly recognize that it is in the general interest of 
every community or nation to discover and to offer the help possible to those 
who (because of their superior qualities) will become the future leaders of 
humanity: its scientists, political figures, economists, artists, educators, creators, 
of the new culture' and civilization. 

VII. Education in the School 

The great changes produced by the trends and characteristics being manifested 
with growing impetus in all areas of human life are the causes of the acute crisis 
in the present school systems that are the object of extensive discussions and 
strong criticism. The breadth and complexity of the problems concerning them 
stretch from the basic principles and goals of education to the many technical 
questions, organizational programs, buildings and financial means. 

We will limit ourselves to the examination of some of the basic problems: One 
of the main. ones, is how to resolve the conflict between mental development 
and the positive attitude (favouring individual self-observation and anti-social 
behaviour) on one hand, and, the trend towards unification which, with its 
exaggerations and faulty applications, is creating excessive standardization, and 
in some cases, even forced regimentation, on the other. The goal of a wise 
school system should therefore be the harmonization, of these contrasting 
tendencies and the constructive use of their higher aspects. 

The growing mental development and positive attitude demand the adoption of 
the best methods of the "new education" in order to encourage and give 
direction. To the independent activity and initiative of the student. At the same 
time, the opposite trend toward unification can be used to further independent 


initiatives and activities and cooperating in joint projects. But much more can be 
done, as the success of experiments carried out in a number off schools with 
regard to civic education has demonstrated. This has been accomplished 
Through self-government the school is model led as a small town community, in 
miniature, with a mayor, a community council, a judge and various committees 
functioning under the discreet and tactful guidance of the instructors. One such 
school, the "SCHOOL CITY PESTALOZZI" in Florence, whose students are 
drawn from poor sections, has applied this self-government with success for a 
number of years. The great value of this method as preparation for the social life 
of the adult is evident with the countless opportunities it creates for practical 
application of the required program of study being taught in the regular classes. 
The choices, decisions and responsibility inherent in the self-government 
exercise develop some of the essential qualities of the will and constitute the 
best type of education towards freedom, and democracy. 

Another important aspect of education is the creation of a cheerful atmosphere 
in the classes and the use of humour as much as is possible — and it often is. 
What is taught must reach the unconscious and be clearly recorded there in order 
for it to make a strong impression and be easily recalled. All boring or 
uninteresting things are rejected by the unconscious which refuses to record 
them, while all that is entertaining and that stimulates the curiosity is well- 
accepted and makes a long-lasting impression. 

A further innovation in the program of schools having students of adolescent 
age, or older, is the introduction of psychology which, as the science of the 
human being , should, and will become, the main science of the future. The 
internal conflicts, uncertainties and confusions of adolescence, caused by the 
reawakening of new biological and psychological energies, stir up a lively 
interest in young people about their own personality and that of others. 
Therefore, psychology will be very well-accepted if presented, not in a dry, 
academic manner, but rather in a humanistic way. Active methods are 
particularly appropriate for the teaching of the various psychological functions. 
Exercises in observation, visualization, mental concentration and creative 
expression can be amply practiced in class. They constitute a good preparation 
for spiritual education . 

VIII. Spiritual Education 

The first thing that must be understood very well is the real meaning of 
"spiritual", particularly in its wider and more inclusive meaning. In. addition to 
its intrinsic importance and value that can be underlined, an education based on 
spiritual values offers a constructive solution for the contrasting viewpoints of 
the supporters of humanistic education and of those favouring technical 
instruction. The former is accused of being too rooted in the past and of being 


interested in ideas and terminology that arouse little interest (and sometimes, 
even active resistance) among today's youth due to their irrelevance to the 
present world situation. The opponents of the latter (i.e., technical instruction) 
maintain that it is concerned only with the capacity to produce, with the 
acquisition of practical abilities, and with the pursuit of materialistic goals. 
There is a great deal of truth to both these criticisms. Therefore, two things must 
be done: The first is to distinguish well the essential, eternal values (human and 
spiritual): - - kindness, truth beauty, love, wisdom — from their historical 
conditioning, from the traditional ways in which they have been presented and 
imposed. New presentations can be given to these same truths and values which 
are appropriate to present and future conditions, and which are attractive to 
youth because they are readily understood and adapted to their mentality. The 
second is to understand that technical education is not an end unto itself and 
should not be given an intrinsic value, but must be seen as a means to ends that 
transcend them; they are means to humanitarian and spiritual goals. In. such a 
way, humanistic knowledge and technical instruction may be integrated 
harmoniously to establish a synthetic education of the total human being. 

Spiritual education has two main aspects. The first concerns the meaning of life, 
its evolutionary development and its aims. These are far wider and higher than is 
ordinarily assumed. A number of scientists have recently affirmed the reality of 
evolutionary progress and have correctly noted that it cannot stop at the "not- 
too-lofty" stage currently reached by humanity, but must continue toward new 
and higher levels. 

The meaning and purpose of existence and the wonderful potential achievements 
of humanity can be presented in school, using words suitable to the different 
ages of the students. The second aspect of spiritual education makes use of the 
tendency toward unification and synthesis in order to widen the outlooks of the 
young people and to shift their interest from their own egocentric personality to 
cooperation, solidarity and to union with ever more extensive groups, until all of 
humanity is included. 

With such an aim in mind, students should be amply informed of the evils, 
sufferings and misfortunes that torment much of humanity, not only in the Third 
World countries, but even in the large cities; they should be brought into direct 
contact with these conditions whenever possible. With their sympathy and 
compassion thus aroused, they will recognize the urgency of correcting these 
social ills, of eliminating the causes of so much distress, and of thus cooperating 
in: the laying down of the foundations of a new world order in which these 
misfortunes will either be eliminated, or greatly reduced. There are many ways 
of doing this: for example, they can be informed of the activities: of the different 
organizations of the United Nations, and in particular, those of the FAO (Food 


Administration Organization) that has made humanity aware, of the existence of 
hundreds of millions of half starved persons in the world. Other ways are: visits 
to hospitals, slums and to underdeveloped areas in every country. 

IX. Methods of Spiritual Education 

Spontaneous spiritual experiences occur in children far more frequently than 
adults would generally realize. Their consciousness is open, to all impressions 
and those "from above" do not meet with obstacles that they often find in the 
minds of adults. But these experiences are generally fleeting and become easily 
submerged in the child's consciousness, by the continuous current of other 
countless impressions. 

Therefore, one of the principal duties of parents is to pay attention to these 
spontaneous experiences, to appreciate their value, and to encourage their 
manifestation. When adults do not take them into consideration, when they 
criticize or ridicule them, (as they often do, in ignorance) the natural reaction of 
the child is to repress those experiences and to thus "close the door" to higher 

Adolescence offers to the adult a new opportunity to be. of help The adolescent 
becomes aware of new physical and emotional impulses and undergoes., at the 
same time, an idealistic, and sometimes, even a "mystical" re-awakening that he 
feels in contrast with the other impulses. This gives him/her a sense of 
bewilderment and creates conflicts that are difficult to face. Even here, 
indifference or a critical attitude on the part of parents, or educators cause the 
adolescent to withdraw into him or herself, while an attitude of understanding 
and encouragement can create, that "communication" and intimacy that will 
enable him/her to successfully pass through this period of often tense relations, 
and will encourage, a future development and spiritual blooming. 

Other opportunities come to the fore each time children ask "meta-physical" 
questions concerning the origin of the world, Heaven, God, death, etc. If parents 
are ready to prepare themselves adequately, they will find it relatively easy to 
use these opportunities to their advantage by giving appropriate answers, and by 
encouraging the spirit of inquiry about these subjects which will become ever 
stronger with the spreading of mental development. In addition, various active 
methods can be used., for example: 

1. Cultivate the sense of beauty in young people, mainly the esthetic 
appreciation of the various aspects of nature: the sky, the sea, mountains, 
flowers, etc. 

2. Cultivate the sense of wonder and admiration. 


3. Present young people with human examples, of a spiritual life in its 
various aspects: the great religious figures, geniuses, heroes — not only as 
warriors and conquerors — but as philosophers, poets., artists, scientists, 
benefactors and as workers in the humanitarian field. 

4. Place the emphasis in all specific, religious institutions, on the inner, vital, 
spiritual aspects and meaning of the doctrines, forms and symbols. 

5. Wisely adapt all other methods, such as concentration and meditation for 
use by young people in order to promote a spiritual life. For adolescents, 
the teaching of spiritual psychology that favours an understanding of their 
inner make-up, puts emphasis on their essential spiritual nature and. on 
their higher possibilities. 

X. Meditation in Education 

A serious deficiency in modern education is the lack of use of meditation; we 
therefore seek to indicate applications of Meditation in various phases and 
conditions of the educational process. 


Children, when observed superficially, seem to lack the capacity of 
concentration. But a more careful study of their spontaneous behaviour reveals 
that when they observe something, or carry out some task that has roused their 
interest, they demonstrate a concentration that sometimes lasts, a long time. The 
persistence with which a child observes, for example, the behaviour of ants or 
the movements of clouds, is well-known. In modern-type schools, one may note 
how children use the teaching materials placed at their disposal with intense 
concentration, often repeating the required action many times. 

Thus, it is clear that children possess an innate power of concentration which 
can be further developed and used constructively. Given the fact that their minds 
are more open and free of worries and personal problems, they often succeed 
better than the adults. 


Exercises of careful observation must be adopted in education, both as 
preliminary training to meditation and for their general usefulness in. studying 
and in all activities. A simple exercise consists of showing a group of objects for 
a short time and then asking the students to give an accurate description, of 
them, of their dimensions, forms and colours. Kipling offers an amusing 
example in his delightful novel, Kim (which contains other psychological points 
of interest as well, including an experience of spiritual realization). In another 
similar exercise, a picture is shown to the students for a minute and they are then 


asked to describe it. The picture is re-shown again for half a minute, so that they 
may see what they failed to observe the first time and note their possible errors. 
This type of exercise should be done in school where, the children can write 
their descriptions to save time, thus gaining practice, at the same time, in written 

Another exercise, a more difficult one, is self-observation , but adolescents have 
the capacity to carry it out and are readily interested in it. It consists of assuming 
the position of the observer of one's own inner world, making note of and 
describing (as they occur) impulses, feelings, images and thoughts that 
spontaneously emerge from the unconscious into the illuminated field of 


Another group of exercises are those of visualization . The first and most simple 
is that of imagining (with eyes closed) to "see" a number as if it were written on 
a blackboard. Beginning with a single number, the student develops his/her 
ability — through practice — until he/she becomes able to "see" numbers of many 
digits. Other subjects suitable for further visualization exercises are: coloured 
geometric forms (squares, triangles, circles), then three- dimensional forms 
(cubes, pyramids, spheres), eventually more and more complex human figures 
and landscapes. These exercises are also useful in offering to students: proof of 
the results of the training. A further step, in the case of adolescents, is that of 
visualizing their ideal model — the model of what they wish to become. 

Reflective Meditation 

The observation and visualization exercises prepare the way for the practice of 
various types, of meditation. The first is reflective meditation , and this, without 
being acknowledged as such, is used in all school occasions that require 
reflective thinking, such as the solution of a mathematical problem, or the draft 
of a composition. But deliberate systematic meditation is something more that 
yields greater results. 

The teacher chooses as the theme, of meditation, at first, some simple, tangible 
object, for example — a stone, a flower, a pencil. The pupil is asked to look at it 
with attention, and, then to reflect on its origins, its nature, and on its qualities, 
the uses it can serve — and to say whatever else comes to mind about it. 

Even here, for the reasons stated above, written answers are preferable. One can 
suggest writing, both as ideas present themselves during the meditation, and 
immediately afterward?, recording the results and conclusions. Every subject 
can be used for reflective meditation. Adolescents, for example, can use with 


benefit the rules concerning: Right Relations, Good Will, and Group Activity 
which are especially suitable, thanks to their simplicity and practicalness. Young 
people are able to understand their meaning and aims, and can try to apply them 
in daily life. They are closely related to the emerging characteristics of 
Unification and Synthesis. The practice of reflective meditation is truly a 
training in the art of thinking - - a way of thinking independently and with 
originality, and should be encouraged, in the family and in the school. 

Reflective thinking can be stimulated and directed with a series of questions of 
the type usually used, in psychology. It would be necessary to: stimulate 
questions from the student's side, thus encouraging their mental activity, and 
often revealing their doubts and problems. Prayer has been indicated as the "way 
of the heart". But this is generally considered as being pertinent to religion., and 
we will speak of it here only to note that it is associated with the Law of 
Spiritual Approach and that it can be used in education, in group, both in the 
family- as well as in school. In countries where religious prayer is not permitted! 
in the schools because of a clear division between education and religion:, it has 
been suggested that it be replaced by meditation. 

Receptive Meditation 

Education has many phases in which receptive meditation can be widely applied 
and used. The first stage of receptive meditation is silence . This, in addition to 
its inherent, general value, also has a specific one — that of antidote to the 
excessive noise and lack of inner silence produced by the emerging tendencies 
of extraversion, dynamism and mental activity. The situation has reached the 
point where today's young people not only do not value silence, but seem to fear 
it, and are sometimes even incapable of bearing it. To the already general uproar 
of modern life, they (as well as many adults!) add their personal contribution 
with their radio blasting at full volume. 

Nevertheless, one can teach them to appreciate silence. This is shown, by the 
results obtained in Montessori schools where "the exercise of silence" is 
regularly practiced. Here is a meaningful testimony to this fact by Mrs. E. 
Herman, from her book Creative Prayer (pp. 57-58): 

"... a state of balance (equilibrium) and of harmony should be obtained by means 
of a natural, progressive discipline that begins from early childhood. We must 
still accept and apply the axioms that to cultivate, the habit of silence is an 
integral part of all true education; and that children, far from considering a 
request for silence as an unnatural and intolerable imposition, have an innate 
bent for quiet. In order to recognize this, it is enough to take part in a period of 
silence in a Montessori school; the curtains are drawn, the signal is given and 
every little face is lowered while a serene calm descends on the children. It is 


truly silence and not drowsiness. No attempt is made to suggest a meditation 
theme, and yet something very similar to meditation, takes place, because, when 
the voice of the teacher calls the children by name, one by one, into the 
adjoining room, they come as beings who have learned a wonderful blissful 
secret. There is something deep in their joyous eyes, something more than just 
health and physical peace in all their behaviour. A strange beauty, a freshness 
similar to the morning dew, seems to have enriched the natural, child — like 
vitality and charm, already so delightful in and of themselves. (See also: M. 
Montessori: The Secret of Childhood , Garzanti, editor). Whatever one may think 
about the Montessori. system, few would doubt the wisdom of that moment of 
calm in the midst of the morning activity." 

Receptive meditation can be practiced, both in family as well as at school, as a 
form of Group Activity . When the family finds itself in front of a problem, a 
difference of opinion or a conflict, a request for light and inspiration made 
together during a receptive group meditation often proves to be very effective. 
This method eliminates the personal element from the difficulty, raising it to 
higher levels of inner reality, from where, through, the super- conscious level, 
the desired intuition may arrive. Receptive meditation could be used in classes 
with adolescent students, after suitable preparation. It can help in the re- 
awakening of intuition, inspiration and spiritual realization. 

The highest theme, of meditation is the Self and the teaching of spiritual 
psychology is the preparation for it. Parents and teachers will find practical 
value in. the Self- Identification exercise towards achieving this goal. 

Creative Meditation 

There is, at last, creative meditation . This "inner action" produces great results 
and is, in addition, necessary to counter-balance the current exaggerated 
tendencies toward extraversion and outer activity. Adolescents can be instructed 
in its use, in an elementary form, while its more advanced techniques can be 
practiced at the university level. 

Furthermore, the application to everyday life of these indications concerning 
meditation in education can lead to: 

1 . Establishing of Right Relations in the family context, particularly between 
parents and children, and among the children themselves. These 
relationships are especially tense at the present time, for reasons already 
stated. A serious scholastic problem is the establishment of right 
harmonious and constructive relationships between teachers and pupils. 
The relationships among the students themselves, though generally 
smoother, offer frequent occasions for individual and group conflicts, and 


the training towards cooperation, by means of group work, is therefore 
particularly useful. The secondary school programs should include 
instruction in the practice of right relations outside the school and in all 
areas of social life. 
2. Good Will is an essential element in fostering right motivation, and is 
particularly necessary for counter-balancing the separative and egoistic 
use of the will. We must give it the greatest importance in education; first, 
in its aspect of a courteous and kind disposition towards others, and 
second, even more in the active and dynamic quality of the will itself . 

Group Activity is at the root of cooperation, in the family, as in school. Social 
service offers, for example, a wider field of action, and the opportunities for 
such service must be offered during the school years. 


The Balancing and Synthesis of the Opposites 

by Roberto Assagioli, MD 


Physical Polarity 
Emotional Polarity 
Mental Polarity 
Spiritual Polarity 
Inter-individual Polarity 
Balancing Opposite Poles 

Polarity is a universal fact; it is inherent in cosmic manifestation. It is true that 
the Ultimate and Supreme Reality is the One, the Absolute, the Transcendent; 
but it can only be defined by what it is not. 

From the very moment that cosmic manifestation begins to unfold, duality is 
horn. The first fundamental duality is precisely that between manifestation and 
the Unmanifest. In the Bhagavad Gita this is expressed in the words: "Having 
pervaded the whole Universe with a fragment of myself, I remain." In the 
process of manifestation the fundamental polarity is that of Spirit and Matter. 

It is at once necessary to state that all polarity is a relationship between two 
elements, and that, as such, it is never absolute, but relative even to a particular 
pair of opposites: the same element can be positive in its relation to a certain 
"pole" and negative in its relation to another. An instance of the relativity of the 
"polar relationships" exists in the fundamental polarity' between Spirit and 
Matter. According to some, Spirit is the free and transcendent Reality which 
stands above the various pairs of opposites existing in manifested life. Such is 
the conception of Keyserling, contained in his book, From Suffering to 
Fulfillment (London; Selwyn and Blount) (cf. also Das Buck von Personlichen 
Leben (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlag Anstalt, 1936), by the same writer, p. 505- 
510-515.) According to others, Spirit corresponds to the positive pole, to the 
dynamic and creative element in all duality. Such is Jung's idea. In other words, 
Keyserling regards the "tension" between Spirit and the various manifestations 
of life as existing in a vertical" direction, which he refers to as the "dimension of 
intensity," while Jung conceives polarity more as a horizontal relationship. 


Physical Polarity 

In the physical world, the most commonly recognized polarity is that between 
the positive and negative poles in electricity. This polarity is the basis of the 
constitution of matter since, as is well known, each atom contains charges of 
electricity differentiated into a positive nucleus and a varying number of 
negative electrons. Electric polarity manifests itself in various ways which have 
many practical applications, as in induced and alternating currents, etc. 
Interesting analogies can be found in various polarities in the field of 
psychology, such as emotional attraction and repulsion, ambivalence and the 
"compensatory" function. 

Within living organisms, such as the human body, there are various polarities. 
One of the most important is that between the sympathetic and the 
parasympathetic nervous Systems; the former stimulates catabolism, the latter 
assimilation or anabolism. Other polarities exist between the different endocrine 

One of the most important and general polarities in the three kingdoms of 
organic life (vegetable, animal and human) is the sexual. The positive pole is 
represented by the masculine element, the negative by the feminine element. 
This does not mean that the former is active and the latter passive. Both are 
active, but in a different way, the masculine element being the dynamic, 
initiating pole, while the feminine element is the receptive, "gestative," 
elaborative pole. This type of polarity extends far beyond the man-woman 
relationship to innumerable manifestations in life. It has been particularly and 
deeply emphasized by the Chinese who regard these two principles as the 
foundation both of cosmic evolution and of every aspect of human life. The 
creative aspect, symbolized by the father and Heaven, they call Yang, while Yin 
is the receptive and elaborative aspect, symbolized by the mother and the Earth. 
The well-being of Man depends, in the view of Chinese philosophy, on the 
harmonious accord between Man and the cyclic evolution of the Universe, 
woven from the innumerable relationships and interactions of Yang and Yin. (1) 

Emotional Polarity 

In the field of the emotions and feelings we find those dualities which are 
familiar to all: pleasure-pain; excitement-depression; confidence-fear; attraction- 
repulsion; love-hate. Such is their extent that one might say that the life of the 
average human being is based on his emotional reactions to things, to events and 
to persons. These reactions have a definite function and purpose, provided they 
are maintained within appropriate hounds. But if we allow them to take over-as 
too often is the case-we are apt to become their slaves. Later we shall consider 
how the limitations of these opposites can be overcome. 


Mental Polarity 

In the mental realm there is the polarity between the analytical activity of the 
concrete mind and the synthetic operation of the abstract intelligence; between 
the inductive process (from the particular to the general) and the deductive 
process (from the general to the particular). 

Consideration of the human personality in its totality discloses various 
fundamental polarities which have been extensively investigated by modern 
psychology. The knowledge about the human being acquired in this process has 
stimulated the development of important psychological, educational and 
psychotherapeutic techniques. The principal polarities here are: Body-Psyche; 
Consciousness-the Unconscious; the lower Unconscious -the Superconscious; 
Pathos (Receptivity, Sensitivity, Reactivity) -Ethos (Activity, Dynamism, Will); 
Eros (Feeling)-Logos (Reason). 

Spiritual Polarity 

The fundamental duality in the spiritual realm is that existing between the 
personality and the Transpersonal Self, a polarity which is the cause of many 
inner conflicts, until harmonious relationships and an increasing blending or 
unification (spiritual psychosynthesis) are achieved. 

Interindividual Polarity 

There are also many "inter-individual" polarities which are of the utmost 
importance. The most and fundamental one is that existing, on all levels, 
between Man and Woman. Then there is that between adults and young people, 
particularly in the interaction between parents and their children. There are, 
further, the various relationships between individuals and the different groups to 
which they belong. 

Among them we find the family considered as a unit, as a "psychic entity," 
which is made up not only of members who are alive, but also of ancestral 
influences and family traditions. Such influences are sometimes a help to the 
individual, offering him an ideal and a way of life which he may be encouraged 
to live by. Other times, and perhaps more often, they may hem him in and even 
oppress him. 

Then come the social groups of different kinds (social and professional classes, 
cultural and religious groups, nations) with which the individual may find 
himself associated, in a condition of passive subordination or of cooperation, as 
leader and directing agent or in conflict. Similar relationships exist among 
groups; both among those of the same kind and size, i.e., between families and 


families, classes and classes, nations and nations, etc.; and the "hierarchical" 
ones, between the family and the state; classes and nations; between a state and 
a federation of states. 

Two kinds of polarities which are of great importance are that between the 
northern and southern individuals and groups in each nation and continent and 
that between Western and Eastern peoples. 

Balancing Opposite Poles 

Each of these numerous polarities confronts us with the problem of their 
interplay and balancing. The following is a brief survey of the general principles 
and methods of balancing opposite poles with the object of resolving "polar 

1 . Fusion of the two poles, involving the neutralization of their charges of 

2. Creation of a new being, of a new reality. 

3. Adjustment of the opposite poles, by means of an "intermediary centre" or 
of a principle higher than both. A regulating action of this kind can be 
brought about in two ways: 

a. By diminishing the amplitude of the oscillations between the two 
extremes, at times even to vanishing point, thus inducing a more or 
less complete neutralization ("the happy medium"). An instance of 
this, of great actual interest, is the oscillation between excessive 
authority and uncontrolled freedom in education and the search for 
a balanced attitude. 

b. By consciously and wisely directing the alternations so that the 
result is harmonious and constructive, and in accord with the cyclic 
alternations of both individual and general, human and cosmic, 
conditions. (This is the method taught by Chinese philosophy and 
particularly by the / Ching.) 

4. Synthesis, brought about by a higher element or principle which 
transforms, sublimates and reabsorbs the two poles into a higher reality. 

The different types of polarity require correspondingly appropriate solutions. 
Man often has the freedom — and consequently the responsibility — of choosing 
between different methods of balancing. It should, however, be pointed out that 
the indicated solutions are not always as clear tut as the above enumeration 
might lead one to believe. Sometimes, as the following examples will show, 
they can overlap or be combined in various ways. 

In the field of electricity, the most simple outcome is neutralization through the 
fusion of the positive and negative charges. However, the conditions in which 


this fusion is effected determine the results, which are thus subject to 
considerable variation. When, for instance, the poles are brought towards each 
other, and the voltage with which they are charged overcomes the resistance of 
the medium which separates them, a discharge is produced which manifests as a 
spark. Lightning is an instance of this phenomenon. When, on the other hand, 
the poles are kept apart but connected by a conducting wire, with some 
"resistance" introduced at a point along the conducting wire, the electrical 
energy becomes susceptible to various transformations. This latter process is 
being utilized with increasing ingenuity in the transformation of electricity into 
light, into heat, or into movement. In these cases the process of neutralization 
produces various useful effects. In the biological realm, health can be defined as 
a dynamic equilibrium ever threatened and ever restored between a series of 
polarities, such as exist between the divisions of the nervous system, between 
various endocrine glands, and in general between the anabolic and catabolic 
functions. In the same way, psychological life can be regarded as a continual 
polarization and tension between differing tendencies and functions, and as a 
continual effort, conscious or not, to establish equilibrium. Among the most 
important psychological polarities are: impulse -inhibition; feeling-reason; 

In sexual polarity, the union of the two physical elements has a creative effect. 
The dynamism of their fusion brings about the birth of a new organism similar 
to that of the parents. In humanity this wonderful physical creative function is 
closely associated with the psychological polarities, and this often produces very 
complex situations and difficult problems. 

In the fields of drives, emotions and feelings, the balancing of opposite qualities 
requires the intervention of a higher regulating principle of a mental or 
transpersonal nature. The first task is to prevent the drives and the emotions 
from overwhelming and submerging the reason and the will. The best way to 
achieve this is to learn how to disidentify oneself from them at will, in order to 
be free at any time to maintain the "I", the centre of consciousness, on a higher 
level above them, in order to be able to observe and evaluate them, and to wisely 
regulate them as needed. 

Let us make it clear that to regulate does not mean to "suppress," and that this 
does not in any way lead to aridity or a lack of sensitivity. Let us, for example, 
consider a fundamental polarity, pleasure-pain. As long as we remain slaves of 
this duality, always actively seeking pleasure and fearfully fleeing from pain, we 
shall not find lasting peace or permanent satisfaction. On the other hand, a 
forced inhibition, an artificial impassivity, certainly does not constitute a 
satisfactory solution. This can only be arrived at by means of that clear insight 
which enables us to understand the causes, the nature and the functions of both 


pleasure and pain. This insight carries the recognition that, in accepting pleasure 
without craving for it and attachment to it, and in accepting pain, when 
unavoidable, without fearing it and rebelling against it, one can learn much from 
both pleasure and pain, and "distill the essence" which they contain. Moreover, 
one can gradually raise the quality and level of these "opposites"; one passes by 
degrees from the physical pleasures in and of themselves to the joys of feeling 
and of the mind, finally experiencing spiritual joy. One makes one's way from 
physical suffering to emotional troubles, to intellectual turmoil, then to 
compassion for the sufferings of others and then of the whole human race. From 
all these experiences one gathers the fruits of wisdom, and learns to keep the 
centre of consciousness stabilized more arid more at a level above the 
alternations of personal pleasure and pain. Finally we can acquire the ability to 
identify ourselves with the Universal Life, with the Supra-Individual Self, with 
the Supreme, which transcends all "opposites" in ineffable bliss. 

If we examine more closely the specific polarities of the emotional field, we can 
clearly distinguish two main types of solutions. One is realized on the same 
level; it can be called "the middle way" of compromise, the blending of the two 
poles. The other solution is achieved at a higher level: it is the fusion of the 
poles into a higher synthesis. 

The method of synthesis which is analogous in a certain sense to a chemical 
combination, includes and absorbs the two elements into a higher unity endowed 
with qualities differing from those of either of them. The difference between the 
solutions achieved through compromise and those brought about through 
synthesis can be clearly indicated by a triangular diagram. Here are a few 

Benevolent Understanding 

Sympathy Q Q Antipathy 




Apathetic Calm 


Clear Vision of Reality 



Spiritual Acceptance 

of the Cause of the Painful Situation 




Compromise in Behavior 

The polarity between "mind" and "heart", between reason and feeling (Logos 
and Eros), is regulated in the first place by the recognition of their respective 
functions and of the legitimate field of action of each of the two functions, so 
that neither dominates the other. This can be followed by a mutual and 
increasing cooperation and interpenetration between the two, finally arriving at 


the synthesis so well expressed by Dante in the words "Intellectual light full of 

The polarity between sensitivity and receptivity (Pathos) and dynamism or Will 
(Ethos) which, in a wider sense, corresponds to psychosexual polarity — for the 
former pole is the "feminine" and the latter the "masculine" modality — can also 
at first be controlled by a balanced adjustment, to be superseded by a creative 

The fundamental polarity between the human personality as a whole and the 
spiritual Self can also be resolved into a unity. This is the aim of the process of 
harmonization and transmutation involving a protracted series of conflicts, 
approaches, and contacts, each producing partial, increasingly expanded fusions. 
In short, this is the process of spiritual psych- synthesis. It constitutes the noble 
effort, the central drama of Man who, either consciously or unconsciously, 
aspires to this high goal, or is pushed towards it by his inability to find lasting 
satisfaction or a true peace until he has attained it. 

The interaction between the Self and the personality creates a series of 
"triangular" relationships similar to those previously indicated. Here are some of 

Spiritual Dignity 

Self-Depreciation / \ Arrogance 
(Inferiority Complex) Q Q Q (Superiority Complex) 



Spiritual Understanding 

Intellectual Doubt 

Common Sense 

Transmutation and Sublimation 



Spiritual Energy 


Human Force 


The various equilibrations, adjustments and syntheses can be produced in 
different ways. At times, they are preceded by intense crises and conflicts. In 
other cases they are reached in a more gradual and harmonious way by means of 
a progressive decrease in the oscillations of the "pendulum". A clear 


understanding of this process of synthesis enables one to achieve it more easily 
and rapidly. The essential requirement, as previously mentioned, is to avoid 
identifying oneself with either of the two opposite poles, and to control, 
transmute, and direct their energies from a higher centre of awareness and 


1. Numerous Chinese texts deal with this point. One of the most 
interesting is the / Ching or The Book of Transformations, which, 
disguised under the form of a method of divination, contains 
treasures of wisdom. Jung, in The Secret of the Golden Flower, and 
also Keyserling, expressed great appreciation of it. 


The Horizons of Psychosynthesis 

by Roberto Assagioli, M.D. 

(Meeting of Directors of Italian Centers of 

Psychosynthesis, December 1973) 

Dear friends, we would like to take a tour of the ample psychosynthesis horizon. 
Given the time available we can only give a brief outline of the various aspects 
and speak about them briefly, but I will give you the text of my introduction so 
that you then can carry it out with your contributions, written comments and 
developments. If it is possible, we can have another meeting later to examine 
them together. 

The meetings, both here in the Institute and in your centres, will consist of 
lessons and exercises, as in the past years, always focusing on the exercises. As 
regards the lessons, the themes could be the following: first, a presentation with 
comments from my new book "Principles and Methods of Therapeutic 
Psychosynthesis". Second, the theme of the Will, which some of you have 
already started on. I will let you have the translation of the new chapters, that is 
of those that are not in the issues that you have of the last few years. This could 
be the start of what is called in the book the Will Project: there is also a 
questionnaire for you, an actuation program of the Act of Will. You could 
choose for yourselves the other themes. In general, I would propose to "limit" 
yourselves, so to speak, to the fields of psychosynthesis that, as I will indicate 
later, are various. You could speak also about some of the scholars that have an 
affinity with psychosynthesis: Maslow, Frankl, and Rogers. 

In presenting the book, it is opportune to say that it does not regard only therapy. 
The techniques and the exercises described can be used also for individual 
psychosynthesis (self-training) and psychosynthetic education. We find more 
and more that there are no clear limits, neither substantial differences, between a 
healthy person and a suffering person. In fact, as you all know, someone has 
said, with evident exaggeration, that "there are no suffering people, but that 
society is suffering and makes those who are dominated by it suffer". 

Based on the local conditions and possibilities, it could be opportune to do this 
separately or in two courses: one, for newcomers. An elementary course 
explaining the basics, principles, attitude of psychosynthesis. And for the others, 
who have participated for some time, more extensive development courses. 

I would like to speak about the fields of action of psychosynthesis: 


• First, and above all, training and self -training, beginning with ourselves 
and continuing for all our life. 

• Second, the educative field. 

• Third, the therapeutic field, that can be distinguished in the specialized 
one, that is for those who deal with neuropsychic disturbances, and the 
generic and psychosomatic one aimed at doctors that recognize the 
interaction of body and psyche. 

• Fourth, the interpersonal field, of human relationships, principally those 
of the couple, but also between parents and children, teachers and 
students, employers and employees and - generally - between those who 
command others and those who are commanded. 

• Fifth, the social-individual field between human groups, from the family 
group to the various groups that one belongs to; professional, national, 
etc., tending towards human psychosynthesis. 

Naturally, in a one year program, and also of several years, it is not possible to 
carry out fully the activity in all these fields. Each center can choose the field or 
fields that it thinks necessary according to its preferences and disposition, the 
environment and local opportunities. 

It is important to distinguish in each field between the personal and 
transpersonal level. In many cases one can or one must be limited to personal 
psychosynthesis, without entering into the transpersonal field. But when one can 
speak also of the transpersonal aspect, the better, above all because with their 
questions people compel us to enter this field. We must always bear in mind that 
transpersonal experiences are real facts, and as facts can be scientifically 
studied, that is in an empirical and objective way, with scientific method in the 
widest meaning of the word. That which is interesting, and also difficult, is the 
examination of those that can be called "mixed cases", that is of the reactions in 
the personality of the flux of transpersonal energy on the one hand, and of 
aspirations and tendencies of the personality towards transpersonal goals, on the 
other. We could say that, at a higher octave, there is a complex reciprocal 
interaction, analogue to that between body and psyche. 

An activity that some of us and others believe should be developed is that of 
greater connections, first between the various centres in Italy, and then with the 
Foundations, Institutes and centres all over the world. One way is that of 
reciprocally inviting the workers at one centre to speak to those of others. 
Another development is that of favouring the formation of centres where now 
they do not exist. The ideal situation would be that there were a centre in every 
administrative centre of each region and also in many provinces. But, it is not 
necessary to rush, as it depends on WHO is able to run these centres. Thus, 
before thinking of a place it is necessary to find or "train" a person who can 


promote and sustain the activity of the centre. As normal, the organization 
comes after and must be at the service of the "living" part of the work. 

There are then great possibilities for development: to work in new fields or those 
that have been up to now little cultivated. First, educative psychosynthesis, that 
must be first carried out in the family, and then introduced into schools of every 
level, from junior school to university. Children often and willingly carry out 
elementary exercises such as those of silence, visualization, etc. 

Finally, an efficient way to diffuse psychosynthesis is that of the publication of 
written material: first of all book reviews; then articles in various magazines and 
journals, and also translations. Also here, it would be opportune to have good 
lines of communication so as to not produce duplicates. It would be opportune to 
continue the free distribution of books and pamphlets to libraries and cultural 
centres, first "psychosynthesis, for harmony of life" that is of a more general 
interest, and then the pamphlets aimed at various environments. 

This leads to the principle problem: that of the preparation of operators. Here, it 
is well to distinguish between three principle types of operators: 

1. Those in a general field, of diffusion of psychosynthesis, who do not need 
any specialized certificate: if they have one, so much the better, but it is 
only necessary that they know psychosynthesis well. 

2. The field of educators, in this it is necessary that there are teachers 
working in schools, or psychologists that are called on to perform 
psychological tests and that - in these occasions - can carry out much 

3. This is the most difficult field: the therapeutic one. Here, as you know, 
there is something new: a national roll of psychotherapists is being 
prepared by the Ministry of Public Education, and it will include non- 
medical psychotherapists. We must remember that the majority of 
psychotherapists are not medical doctors, beginning with psychoanalysts. 

The same is true for the followers of Jung: many of them are not doctors. It is 
thus opportune that also the psychosynthetic psychotherapists come forward and 
become peers of Psychoanalysts, of the followers of Jung and of others. 

This has caused the foundation of an "Association of Therapeutic 
Psychosynthesis" - I would like to make it clear that this Association is 
opportune for legalization and official recognition; but it must be completely 
independent of the Istituto di Psicosintesi because it - as a registered non-profit 
charity - is a cultural institute and is not able to carry out any therapy. 
Therefore, it is well that the Association be completely independent of the 


Institute. Some of you can obviously work in both fields, but in a distinct way. 
In this panorama we can exchange ideas and proposals on what has been said. 



by Roberto Assagioli, M.D. 


What is Meditation 

The Process of Meditation 




Types of Meditation 

Reflective Meditation 

Technical Suggestions on Reflective Meditation 

Receptive Meditation 

Stages of Receptive Meditation 


Methods of Reception 

Inner Seeing 

Inner Hearing 

Inner Contact 

Urge to Action 


Delayed Reception 

Dangers and Mistakes of Receptive Meditation 


There are today many approaches to meditation. Some are quite new; some have 
been known and practiced for thousands of years The approach described here 
draws from classical Eastern systems, such as Raja Yoga, and Western 
psychological systems that include the transpersonal dimension, such as 

It aims at expanding, elevating, and illuminating consciousness through the 
harmonious and integrated action of body, feelings, and the mind. It harnesses 
the considerable power of the mind, directing it toward higher or more profound 
states of consciousness. It is well-suited for many of us today as a bridging 
process, a mediatory means by which we can expand our awareness beyond our 
normal level of concrete mental activity, and reach to the world of meaning, of 
pure ideas and to the superconscious region, thus building a usable path between 
these realms, Insights that flow through this path permeate and vivify the whole 


of our being, and as the process continues, we become more and more in 
harmony, with ourselves and with all that is around us. 

What is Meditation 

The urge to discover more about the inner side of life is stimulating many today 
to a new interest in meditation In the past this kind of "higher thinking" was 
considered a passive, reflective form of devotion, but meditation as it is 
becoming widely practiced today is a positive and creative use of the mind, 
actively linking the inner and the outer worlds It entails concentration, 
reflection, a clear conception and formulation of ideas or thoughts, and then 
considering and visualizing ways and means of relating them to life, thus taking 
into account the affective domain and physical activity. The usual contraposition 
of meditation on the one hand and action on the other is misleading Meditation 
is inner action. 

The "inner action" of thought is something that we use all the time, even though 
we may not notice it. Thought lies at the back of everything we do: building our 
attitudes, our relationships and our whole way of life. In the world of the mind 
are born the practical beginnings of everything that man creates on earth. From 
the architect's thinking before he makes his blueprints, to the scientist seeking a 
new formula, from the world statesman to the educator, the fabric of everyday 
life is being woven out of thinking In this way the future is hourly being created, 
thinkers are building the pattern of things to come. 

Each one of us can consciously use creative thinking, and with it participate in 
building the inner structure of the world that is to be. For it is not only the 
thought of the inventors, the scientists and the nations' leaders that is bringing in 
the new civilization - the weight of the mass of public thought and the power of 
all men's aspiration are bringing into being the circumstances and the conditions 
that we shall have tomorrow Each of us can play a constructive part in this if we 
so choose. 

The mind can become a great creative instrument as well as a vital "activator." 
Its vision can link us with our higher possibilities, and through it we can probe 
the outer boundary of our existing knowledge and catch sight of the world of 
meaning and values. This enables us to gather in the higher ideas of the true, the 
good, the needed, bringing them down to everyday recognition and making them 
part of life. 

Creative thinking is a definite stage in objectifying ideas and higher concepts; 
and because thought is an energy we can use its power to develop the qualities, 
the attitudes, and the conditions that we think should prevail. If we use thought 


consciously and creatively, we can bring about changes in ourselves and our 
lives, as well as in our environment and in the world. 

But thought often plays through us unconsciously and haphazardly, and 
frequently it has us instead of our having it, bringing worry and depression and 
sweeping us along with its own force. If we use it selfishly it can even be 
destructive. Therefore, at the same time as we realize the power of thought we 
must see the vital need for right thought, for right motive behind thought, and 
for right understanding of its subtle processes. 

The Process of Meditation 

Most people have only a vague idea of what meditation really is, and we need to 
clarify how it is accomplished, how it functions, what it achieves, and the 
service it can give. 

Thought is an energy, an unseen but real power, and through meditation we can 
focus it to build, to feed, to maintain an idea, a quality or a rule or law of life. As 
we have said, meditation is inner action - action in the inner worlds. There are 
many kinds of inner action; all thinking, hoping, imagining, all aspiration and 
desire, are activities of this type, but they are generally carried on without 
conscious intention and without a sense of responsibility. Meditation, on the 
other hand is conscious deliberate inner action to fulfil a specific purpose. 

We can get a good idea of the different kinds of action and their definite stages, 
which we propose to master in meditation - from the analogy of a missile being 
sent into space, pursuing its course and returning to earth. A corresponding cycle 
takes place in the meditation process. 

The first stage is that of projection. The propelling energy of the missile 
conquering the downward pull of gravity projects it upwards into orbit around 
the earth, or beyond. In the same way we can project our centre of consciousness 
upwards, through the sphere of feeling and imagination, and penetrate to the 
world of thought and even further - to transpersonal levels, Our propelling 
energy is that of aspiration, which has aptly been called "fiery aspiration", and 
we direct it - as in fact we must direct the whole meditation process by the great 
unrealized potency of the will. 

The second stage for the missile is its approach to the gravitational field of 
another centre of attraction. In meditation this corresponds to coming into 
contact with some higher centre of energy or life, some realm of thought, or 
some specific region in the inner worlds. 


The next stage is the delicate one of utilizing the pull from the new centre. If this 
is rightly achieved, the self-propelling energy still existing in the missile will 
enable it to circle around the new centre, keeping in orbit. The same is true of 
the individual consciousness in penetrating to higher, inner levels. It has to attain 
the region towards which it is directed, but must maintain its freedom and not 
become a prisoner of it. It must remain in that area only as long as is required for 
its purpose, that is, the experiencing and registering of whatever can be gathered 
from the centre with which rapport is being made, or from the region of thought 
attained. Then we should bring the meditation to a close harmoniously and 

The essential task of receiving information from the instruments in the missile 
corresponds to our registering and rightly interpreting the ideas that we find in 
the higher realms; and, finally, all of this has to be utilized and integrated into 
our existing knowledge and experience, as is the information obtained from the 

There is still a further point in this analogy; control of the missiles and 
knowledge of their position with respect to the earth is maintained throughout 
their whole course. So it is with meditation, conscious control should never be 
lost. It is possible to fall into a state of unconsciousness, but projection to this 
extent is wrong and dangerous. Meditation must always be a conscious process, 
we must remain fully aware the whole time, and from this point of awareness - 
here, where we are - direct the whole process, watching it, controlling it, and 
regulating its extension and duration. 


Much of the success of meditation depends upon right and careful preparation. 
To begin with, as quiet a place as possible should be chosen at least until we are 
used to meditating - where we can feel that our privacy will not be disturbed. 
We should sit in a comfortable position. While the Eastern way of sitting cross- 
legged has the advantage of keeping the spine erect, it is a difficult posture for 
those who are not accustomed to it, and is not necessary. An effective 
preliminary to meditation is to read or study something connected with the 
theme we will be meditating on, and if there is time we should do this as it 
greatly facilitates the tuning in of the mind. 


Next, we should try to eliminate all physical, emotional, and mental tension, 
because such tension is a quite useless expenditure of both nervous and 
muscular energy. Relaxation is an art that has to be worked at, and it is not as 
simple as it may appear. In trying to achieve it, we are apt to fall into the 


opposite extreme - a state of passivity which ends in drowsiness. The aim is to 
eliminate all superfluous tension, while retaining the muscular tone necessary 
for alertness and for full attention to what we are doing. 

The various techniques of relaxation cannot be described here, but there are 
many books which go fully into the different aspects of this subject. One of the 
most effective ways of achieving relaxation is through slow, rhythmic breathing. 
But breathing exercises should be done with caution, for they can be harmful if 
carried out too strenuously. An adequate exercise consists of a deep breath with 
short pauses held at the end of each in -breathing and each out-breathing. This 
can be done about ten times, rhythmically and slowly. There should be no sense 
of strain, either in breathing or during the pauses, steady rhythm rather than 
length of time being the aim. The respiratory muscles should be relaxed with the 
out-breathing; this "letting go" of tension can then be diffused to all the other 
muscles of the body and a general relaxation achieved. 

Physical relaxation is a first and necessary step to the more important one of 
psychological relaxation. The latter comprises emotional and mental relaxation, 
which have to be achieved in two distinct phases corresponding to the two 
different levels of the inner worlds on which we will be working - the emotional 
and mental. Each has to be handled separately and in its own way. 

If, after relaxing physically, we begin to observe ourselves psychologically, we 
generally find that various feelings come and go These emotions have to 
subside. It is not good to repress them forcibly, but the very fact of calmly 
observing them from what might be called "above", without being identified 
with them, causes them gradually to lose their hold and their intensity, so that 
they cease to sway us and quiet down - if not completely, at least to a degree in 
which they no longer constitute a serious obstacle; and that is good enough. 

This forms the first part of psychological relaxation; the second part is mental 
relaxation By nature the mind is restless and in continuous activity, and this is 
increased by the high tempo of modern life and also by emotional stimulation. If 
we have managed to exclude for the moment the activities of ordinary life and 
have quieted the emotions, it will be less difficult to deal with the natural 
restlessness of the mind itself. 

This cannot be done completely in the preparatory stage; it will be the chief task 
in the first part of the actual meditation, which is concentration, In the 
preparatory stage it is enough to reach a certain degree of dis -identification from 
the mind's activity and to resist being carried by it this way and that, 
distinguishing this activity from the consciousness of the self, whom we could 
call the "Observer." This provides what might be regarded as a platform from 
which to go on to the actual meditation, Here, also, the aim is not to suppress by 


violence, or by an effort which immediately brings tension and therefore defeats 
its object. The method to be used is more that of attrition, of not feeding with 
interest any stray thoughts or images which remain in the mind; they will not 
then interfere seriously with the inner action of meditation. This preparation 
could be described as making room in and around the centre of consciousness 
for the exercises of concentration that are to follow, yet without attempting to 
clear the whole area completely at this stage. 


In taking up the subject of concentration the first point to realize is the 
difference between spontaneous or automatic concentration and deliberate 
controlled concentration. They are different, both in nature and in the way they 
work. What is called spontaneous concentration is the functioning of the mind 
under the impulse of a strong interest, desire or feeling, which keeps it working 
along a certain line. A typical example is the businessman as he plans for the 
success of his organization. Another example is the student's concentration on 
the subjects on which he expects to be examined. 

Those who can concentrate effectively in this way are under the illusion that 
their power of concentration is good. And it does indicate a certain aspect of it, 
but the ability to keep the mind on a task or subject when driven by intense 
interest, need or fear, does not necessarily mean that it can be done when that 
incentive is lacking. The fact is that when we try to concentrate on some abstract 
subject, or on something which entails no personal interest or benefit, we find it 
much more difficult and frequently discover that we have no real control over 
our minds after all. 

It is evidence that our emotions, drives, and thoughts play, almost dramatically, 
through us and are the strong forces in our lives. In other words, we are driven 
by them and are not ourselves the choosing, directing, controlling factor. 

This is one reason why the more purely mental or spiritual interests have not the 
driving potential of the usual personal interests of the average nun. Another 
reason is an inherent difference in the nature of these interests. Abstract subjects 
are "thinner"; they are more intangible for the mind to take hold of and focus on. 
The mind, being less accustomed to this subtler and more difficult way of 
functioning, is reluctant to face it and turns away It is a new kind of activity, and 
generally speaking any new subject or new area of knowledge presents 
difficulties to begin with. Our minds do not like starting to work in new fields; 
in those with which they are familiar much work has already been done; there is 
a background or experience and there are connections which make the work 
easier. A new subject requires much more concentration and effort. 


The realization that we are not the masters of our minds may shock us, but if it 
does, that is good; it will galvanize us into making efforts towards such mastery, 
and will help to provide the emotional incentive which was lacking previously. 
Another important result of these discoveries about ourselves is awareness that 
there is a difference between ourselves and our minds and emotion The 
unsuccessful effort to keep the mind at work has shown that there is a conflict 
and conflict means that there are two factions which disagree. This awareness of 
conflict is valuable, therefore, in bringing to light the difference between the "I" 
with its own will, and the mind, which is often unruly, reluctant or lazy, and has, 
in a way, a life of its own. 

These preliminary but vital recognitions provide a foundation for the task of 
learning to concentrate the mind at will. They bring understanding of ourselves 
and give the incentive we need to become masters of this precious instrument, 
the mind, which is so excellent a servant when dominated, but which gives such 
trouble when it goes its own way. 

The initial technique to be used in acquiring mastery over the mind, and ability 
to concentrate at will is to begin with concentration on simple and neutral 
subjects which have no interest for us. In this way we learn to hold the mind 
steady without the help of personal interest and desire There are many types of 
such exercises in concentration which can be practiced Visual perception is a 
simple one and consequently a good one to work with first It is a training of 
attention, not of thought processes, and it develops an elementary ability to 
focus the attention, which is the first step in the more advanced and complex 
processes of meditation on abstract subjects. 

A simple exercise in visual perception is to observe a set of objects rapidly and 
accurately. For instance, observe the contents of a room for half a minute, and 
then write as detailed an account of them as possible. The same exercise can be 
done by looking in a shop window or examining a picture. 

Exercises in observing outward objects are a preparation for concentration on 
inner objects - on inner pictures or images An exercise which provides a 
transition between the two is to observe a picture for twenty or thirty seconds, 
then close the eyes and try to keep the image of the picture in the "mind's eye" 
or "inner eye. " We all have this power of imagination in the sense of being able 
to picture objects, faces and so on, which are familiar. It is more developed and 
vivid in some people than others, but for the present purpose it is not so much 
the vividness which is important as the power to keep the picture steady before 
the mind's eye, and to be able to concentrate the attention on it. Looking at the 
picture for a time helps considerably in getting a clear image, and therefore in 
the holding of it. 


A second exercise of this type is to evoke an image and keep it steady for a short 
time without having looked at it just before. One can start with some familiar 
object, such as a building that is seen every day, a view one knows, or a member 
of the family. The image should be built precisely, with concentration on the 
details, and then held steady for a certain time. 

Here begins a real fight - an interesting but sometimes exasperating skirmish - 
between our will to keep the image steady and the fluid nature of the 
imagination, which is accustomed to pass from one thing to another in rapid and 
often disordered succession. It will play all sorts of tricks; it will distort the 
image, enlarge, add some alien element to it, divide it into two or more parts, 
substitute something else for it, in fact do anything and everything except let the 
picture remain quietly before the mind's eye. 

This fact is again revealing. Once more we have undeniable evidence that we are 
not the masters of our mechanism and that there is conflict between it and 
ourselves. It. is here that the process of self-mastery really begins in the sense of 
controlling, directing, and using - at will - our whole mechanism. 

Apart from these specific exercises, there is ample opportunity for us to train our 
concentration during everyday life. It means simply giving full attention to the 
matter at hand without letting the mind wander. Habitual actions are frequently 
carried out in a more or less dreamy way, with stray thoughts about extraneous 
things playing through the mind This creates a state of passive dissociation 
which can grow to harmful proportions, and is in any case a waste of energy. 
Concentration on the other hand enhances the ability to live in the present in 
general, and specifically in that focused section or area of the present where our 
immediate activity lies. 

There is a higher and more important form of concentration than those types so 
far dealt with. It is that of the Observer or inner Spectator who, perfectly 
concentrated himself, observes the flowing panorama of the psychological life - 
called by William James the "mind stream" - and in a detached way perceives it, 
assesses it and, when needed, intervenes to change it. Such an inner attitude is 
not at all easy to maintain consistently. Being what might be termed "on the 
bank" of the mind stream, we tend to be drawn into it by its currents. The 
attention is easily caught by some surge of emotion, by some interesting idea, by 
some impelling drive, and we have to draw it back continually to the center of 
concentration, to the sell, the awareness, the part in us which is persistent and 
unchanging throughout all the variations of the psychological flow. 

The key to acquiring the power of concentration is, as in every other skill, 
prolonged patience and repeated practice. Two extremes should be avoided. One 
is doing these apparently uninteresting exercises in a more or less perfunctory 


way, as a kind of routine; this would be too superficial to serve much purpose. 
The other extreme to be avoided is working with them too strenuously and 
forcibly. Nor should we attempt to do these exercises when tired for then there is 
little likelihood of success, and any progress made will be at the cost of too great 
a strain. 

Another point is that we should not be discouraged by initial lack of success, 
especially the inability to maintain concentration for a certain time, At first it is 
good enough if we can achieve real concentration for ten and then twenty 
seconds; a minute or two is quite long. So it is better to carry out repeated short 
exercises with some success than try forcibly to keep the attention fixed for a 
longer time. 

Finally there are two helpful attitudes which, as the Observer, each of us should 
try to maintain through all the experiments and exercises. The first of these is 
patience with ourselves or, more accurately, with our mechanism - the attitude 
that we would adopt towards an unruly child whose cooperation we hoped to 
gain in the end The other attitude is confidence that persistence will bring 
success, The following words of Hermann Keyserling - from his Travel Diary 
of a Philosopher - will reinforce our confidence as well as emphasize the value 
of what we are attempting to achieve: 

Undoubtedly the power of concentration is the real propelling power of the 
whole of our psychic mechanism. Nothing heightens our capacity for 
performance as much as its increase; every success, no matter in what domain, 
can be traced back to the intelligent use of this power. No obstacle can resist 
permanently the exceptional power of utmost concentration. Attention forces 
every problem sooner or later to reveal all of its aspects which are capable of 
recognition by a specific nature. 

Types of Meditation 

In keeping with conventional practice, we can call meditation the process of 
sustained, controlled mental attention and activity. Under this general heading 
qualifying words will then define the various specific kinds, stages, and 
techniques. We have already dealt with the first stage of meditation- 
concentration The principal types of meditation should now be looked at briefly, 
before we go on to deal with some of them in detail. 

First there is reflective meditation which is a strictly mental process. It is 
sequential, coordinated thinking on or about a definite subject, theme, word, or 
thought - such as those which are called "seed thoughts"; this is an apt term 
because the original or starting thought is the "seed" of all the subsequent 
development of the subject. 


Then there is what can be called receptive meditation because its purpose is the 
reception by the mind of "light" on some subject, truth or realization. 

It is important to realize that receptive does not mean passive or negative; it 
indicates, instead, a state of intense alertness without any autonomous 
functioning. It can be compared to listening or trying to see something which is 
far away, or, using electronics terms, to the mind acting as a receiving station 
and trying to tune itself to the transmitting station. This transmitting station is 
primarily the Transpersonal Self; the process is called inspiration, or in some 
cases intuition, and the result is illumination of the mind. But the effects of such 
meditation are not limited to that alone, for the new and higher truths perceived 
have a transforming and elevating power over the whole personality; they 
change the whole man. 

The third type is creative meditation which aims first at the building of a 
dynamic, effective, well-defined thought or idea, then at changing it with the 
energy of feeling, and finally at animating or propelling by will, so that it fulfils 
a definite function or purpose; this function may work out either in the inner 
worlds, or in the world of outer action by supplying a pattern or an incentive. 

There is still another aspect of meditation which has been called elevation or 
ascent. Initially it leads to receptive meditation. Here the endeavour is to raise 
the centre of consciousness deliberately to ever higher levels of the inner world. 
It is like mounting an inner ladder towards the Transpersonal Self, and 
sometimes contacting it for a brief moment. When the highest point has been 
reached, an active interplay between the mind and the Self may take place; this 
has been called by Martin Buber and others the inner dialogue. 

Reflective Meditation 

The simplest definition of the first kind of meditation mentioned reflective 
meditation - is just "thinking". This is a correct definition as far as it goes, but it 
does not go very far, for generally we do not give much thought to thinking ! We 
imagine that, being intelligent, we can think whereas just thinking about 
anything that interests us is in fact only an elementary state of mental activity. 

It has been said that usually the mind "thinks in us", rather than that we think. 
This means that the activity of the mind is a process that as a rule goes on pretty 
much by itself promoted by stimuli or drives of different kinds and flowing in a 
disorderly way, one train of thought driven out by a second, the second by a 
third, and so on. To describe this state of affairs in a more exact way, we can say 
that normally the mind is largely independent from the "I" and from the will; it 
is interfered with all the time by emotions, drives, images, and external stimuli, 
and reacts to them. Such mental activity scarcely deserves the name of real 


thinking, for it is only when a strong urge or interest keeps the mind at work that 
it functions in an orderly and productive way. 

Spontaneous - what we might call unconscious or unrealized - meditation is 
often practiced by people who do not give it that name The scientist working out 
a problem, the philosopher thinking out a concept, the business man intelligently 
planning the organization of his affairs, are all examples of this, for they are all 
demonstrating coherent organized use of the mind - of the thinking function. 

As a preliminary to true meditation, we must realize that the mind is in fact a 
tool, an inner tool, from which we must dis-identify ourselves in order to 
facilitate its proper use. The practice of concentration teaches us the first step - 
how to control the mind, how to keep it steady and one -pointed in the chosen 
direction. Now comes the next step - that of not keeping it still but making it 
proceed, walk, so to speak, along the way we want it to go, towards some 
chosen goal. 

Thinking in this sense means reflecting or brooding upon a given, well-defined 
subject, and working out all the implications, ramifications, and meanings 
implicit in it. And meditation can be said to be an unbroken flow of thought 
toward the object of concentration. 

The first requirement, then for developing the art of thinking is to give close 
attention to the actual process of thinking, for example, to notice immediately 
when its course begins to deviate as a result of either emotional reaction or 
preconceived mental attitude, or - as is frequently the case - in response to the 
process of mechanical association, which carries the mind through a series of 
allied subjects to a point far from the starting place. 

The second requirement is persistence - thinking through. Here some rather 
curious things happen. At first, after a few minutes of reflective thinking, it may 
seem that the subject has been exhausted, that there is nothing left to think 
about. But if we persist through this blank period and continue to reflect, we 
begin to discover other unrealized aspects; we may even find what appeared at 
first to be a dearth of content is, in fact, an overabundance - what the French call 
an "embarras de richesses," Then a new difficulty appears - how to explore all 
the now perceived aspects and complexities of the subject, and how to deal with 
the inrush of new thought-trains. 

Innumerable subjects are suitable for reflective meditation, and mention can be 
made here only of the different categories. Psychological and spiritual qualities 
offer an almost endless series - courage, harmony, serenity, joy, will, and so on. 
Symbols constitute another type. 


One can also meditate on a phrase embodying a thought. Such "seed thoughts" 
are, of course, also innumerable, but they can be divided broadly into two 
classes; first those that appear simple and obvious, but which turn out to conceal 
a world of meaning; second, those that are formulated in a paradoxical and 
therefore challenging way. These are often in the form of an apparent 
contradiction, the reconciliation of which lies in a higher or more comprehensive 
synthesis of the two opposite terms, for instance - 

• "Act with interest and without interest." 

• "Suffer with joy." (Which does not mean to enjoy suffering) 

• "Make haste slowly." (An old Latin saying, "festina lente.") 

• "Live in the eternal and in the moment." 

• "See action in inaction and inaction in action." 

Technical Suggestions on Reflective Meditation 

The first suggestion is never to concentrate on negative aspects but to direct the 
attention to those that are positive. The second is to write down immediately any 
worthwhile thoughts or conclusions arrived at, Concepts that seem clear and 
vivid at the time have a way of disappearing from the consciousness very 
quickly and are lost - at least temporarily - if not fixed right away. The 
formulation of thoughts verbally also forces us to clarity of thinking and 
precision, and exposes any confusion and vagueness in our minds. The process 
of writing is itself a stimulus to meditation, and may lead to further valuable 
thoughts, "flowing from the pen," so to speak. Writing in this sense is a 
meditation technique; it definitely helps in keeping the mind oriented and active 
along the desired lines and in maintaining its focus. 

The length of time to be spent on meditation varies, but to begin with it should 
not exceed ten or fifteen minutes; that is quite long enough. The length of period 
during which one subject should be used as the theme also varies, but it should 
not be less than a week, and after some practice one often finds a month none 
too long. In fact some subjects appear to be virtually inexhaustible. A good 
method is to meditate on certain themes cyclically, that is, a series of subjects 
may be listed and each one be used in turn for a week, after which the series is 
gone through again. 

At this point the time factor should be mentioned This is a problem that 
everyone comes up against. Nearly all feel that they have so much to do, their 
lives are so complicated, there is so little privacy today and the demands of work 
and family leave so little spare time or energy, that, although they realize the 
value of a time of meditation each day, they feel that they cannot undertake it. 
These difficulties are real. The whole organization and machinery of modern 
living take no account at all of the rights of the inner life, and so the whole trend 


at present is against it. But in spite of these formidable problems, if we feel the 
value of the inner life strongly enough and really intend to give it some time, we 
can usually find a way of making room in the day for at least a short meditation. 
Ten or fifteen minutes is not a long period to fit into a twenty-four hour 

It is plain, however, that it is almost impossible to have ideal conditions for this 
in modern life, and any quiet time that we find in the day is an oasis to be taken 
advantage of. A good rhythm to establish is that of meditating in the same place 
first thing every morning, before entering into the melee of the day. Regularity 
is most valuable, but we should not be dependent upon such rhythm and, even if 
it takes longer to attune ourselves to the inner work and is more difficult, it is 
better to learn to do this quite independently of our surroundings. Each one of us 
has his own problems on this and each has to solve them as best he can. 

The rewards of reflective meditation are many. First it brings increasing 
proficiency in using the mental tool and a growing sense of mastery of the mind. 
This, of course, is reached only by degrees, and We cannot expect to achieve 
perfection; but even a fair degree of control of the mind is gratifying and most 
valuable, for the mind is a bad master, but a most useful servant. Other results 
will emerge if we seriously undertake and continue this form of inner action, 
which is also a necessary preliminary step to the other types of meditation It 
begins our training in this field of work and lays the foundations for all future 

Receptive Meditation 

Receptive meditation is a most valuable part of our mental training, but, 
although it may seem quite simple, it is actually the most difficult kind of 
meditation and one in which we are quite likely to commit mistakes. There are 
also real dangers attached to it and we might, therefore, feel inclined to leave it 
alone. Indeed, it is not advisable for everyone, but there are good reasons for 
training ourselves in it and adopting it as a regular part of our inner action, and 
so its right and safe use will be explained. 

First of all we should realize how invaluable receptive meditation is and how 
helpful is the insight it can bring, both in our spiritual realizations and in guiding 
our personal lives. Second, increased sensitivity, or receptivity to "impressions" 
is a natural and spontaneous result of inner harmonization, and of relationship or 
contact with the Transpersonal Self. Third, if rightly practiced it is not only 
without dangers, but is of great help in avoiding the dangers of unconscious 
receptivity This point is so important and of such constant application that it will 
be good to deal with it at some length. 


We should start with a clear recognition that we are exposed to countless 
individual, group, and mass influences all the time. These last take the form of 
waves of excitement, of panic, or of hostility which sweep through humanity, or 
large sections of it, and sway or even engulf those who do not know how to deal 
with them. These waves or impacts, increasingly recognized today under the 
general term of "vibrations", may reach us through the normal channels of the 
senses, telepathically through psychic impressions, or from mental levels. 

It is most useful - although it may shock us - to realize how much we are tools 
or victims of influences of which we are unconscious, or to which we yield in a 
passive way. An outstanding example - which can be regarded as a gigantic 
experiment in mass suggestion and in influencing behaviour is advertising, the 
effectiveness of which can be evaluated in billions of dollars. At first it was used 
more or less empirically, although with unconscious psychological skill; but 
today it is being used quite deliberately, consciously utilizing definite 
psychological techniques. 

It might seem, therefore, that we should try to become non-receptive to outer 
influences, but this is not the true solutions It is practically impossible to be non- 
receptive and it is also undesirable We do not live in isolation; we are intimately 
connected and interacting with both individuals and groups. Isolation would 
mean self-centeredness, and this is such an unnatural condition that it often 
proves painful and even unbearable. The anguish of solitude produced by 
isolation has been described vividly by several existentialist writers, such as 
Kirkegaard and Kafka. 

Human relations imply receptivity, and lack of receptivity excludes love. The 
true solution requires clear thought and skill in action, and is arrived at through 
three stages of inner activity - awareness, control of mastery, and wise 
utilization. These functions of receptive meditation offer the best way to turn the 
liabilities, the mistakes, and the dangers of receptivity into assets. It is well to 
realize and remember that receptive meditation is a definite form of meditation - 
it is a conscious and controlled mental activity. It is quite different from merely 
psychic receptivity which opens us to influences of an emotional and 
imaginative character, and its mental quality enables us to discriminate between 
the various kinds of impression, to register them correctly and later to interpret 
them rightly. These points will be developed further when describing the 
techniques of receptive meditation. 

Stages of Receptive Meditation 

As the first condition of safe receptive meditation is the ability to keep our 
consciousness steadily on the mental level of awareness, it should be done only 
after the preparation described as necessary for reflective meditation. That 


means we must go through the stages of relaxation, mental preparation by means 
of appropriate reading, dis -identification of the self from the body and the 
emotional life, the elevation of the centre of consciousness and the achievement 
of the inner attitude of the Observer. This is a condition of positive, wide-awake 
awareness. It is also advisable at this point to make whenever possible a short 
reflective meditation; this will consolidate the positive inner attitude and 
develop the ability to use the mind as an obedient tool. 

To realize the difference between reflective and receptive meditation it is useful 
to consider the mind as an "inner eye", which in a certain respect it truly is. In 
reflective meditation the eye of the mind is directed, figuratively speaking, 
horizontally, trying to see beyond the apparent, or rightly interpret what has 
entered the field of consciousness. On the other hand, in receptive meditation we 
direct the mind's eye "upwards" and try to discern what is "above", on a higher 
level than that on which we are aware. This can also be described in terms of 
hearing - we try to catch some inner sound or message coming from a higher or 
subtler region. 


This stage should be defined carefully, because there are various kinds of 
silence. The safe and true kind needed is a positive silence, that is, the 
maintaining of an alert inner stillness for the desired period, in which we 
eliminate as much as possible all the spontaneous activity of the mind. 

This phase of silence is a necessary condition for receiving and registering 
higher influences. Someone endeavouring to reach this inner silence once wrote 
of it in the following amusing way: "I was in deep meditation and knew I had 
reached a very clear and lucid place and like a flash came the thought: 'I know 
that I am in a very, real inner place and yet I am deaf and blind, seeing and 
hearing nothing.' Another split second and there came a sort of humouring 
response: 'If you were also dumb you might possibly see and hear.'" 

To achieve and maintain the inner silence is a difficult task which calls for 
persistence and a firm determination; it is a sustained act of the will. Our 
psychological mechanism is not accustomed to such discipline, it resents it and 
tries in every way to shake it off. A flood of impressions, sensations, emotions, 
images, and thoughts invades the field of. consciousness and a fierce fight for 
mastery begins It seems we will never succeed in expelling the intruders which 
appear to come from every side at once. But it is not necessary to be drastic; too 
strenuous an effort is undesirable and defeats its own ends. 

There are several techniques we can use; one is to repeat over and over a phrase 
or word; another is to evoke an image and keep it clear and steady at the center 


of the consciousness. The best words and images for this purpose are those 
which suggest a state of calm, of peace, or silence. An effective phrase for 
example (from a Hymn used in the Greek Mysteries) is: "Be silent, O strings, 
that a new melody may come to me." Images such as the following are helpful in 
stilling the mind: a quiet lake reflecting the blue of the sky; a majestic mountain 
peak; the starry sky in the stillness of the night. 

Those who have already had some training or practice in meditation will be able 
to use the technique of watching the flow of the mental stream in a detached, 
dispassionate way, as something objective and not belonging to oneself. If we 
succeed in maintaining this positive watching attitude long enough the stream of 
emotions and thoughts becomes slower and slower until it becomes still. 

An opposite condition, that of drowsiness sometimes occurs. This is to be firmly 
avoided because it is not conducive to the receiving of higher impressions and, 
instead, it may bring about a condition which is undesirable and even dangerous. 

The achievement of a true inner silence is well worth the effort and the 
persistent training which it takes. Besides being necessary for receptive 
meditation it has a value of its own; it is conducive to a condition of harmony, 
peace, and quiet joy, and it produces a sense of expansion of consciousness; it is 
also essentially restful and refreshing. 

Methods of Reception 

When a state of silence has been reached, that is, after a period of effort and 
struggle to achieve silence, then we are ready for the further stage of reception. 
The inner attitude is one of quiet watchfulness and patient waiting; it can also be 
described as a state of keen but unemotional interest in what may happen and of 
what we may become aware. The source from which we await impression, and 
to which therefore we direct our one-pointed attention, should be the 
Transpersonal Self. That is the sure source of true impression. But it is not the 
only source; impressions from other sources, if these are high and true, are often 
channelled or conveyed through the Self to the conscious mind. 

Inner Seeing 

The methods of reception are various; an impression may reveal itself to our 
consciousness through seeing, hearing, contact, urge to action and in other 
ways. The most frequent is perhaps through seeing or illumination. The mind is 
indeed symbolically an inner eye, and the symbolism of vision is often used, We 
speak of insight, of illumination, of "seeing" in the sense of realizing the 
meaning or significance of some fact or event, and we talk of "seeing" the 
solution of a problem and of having a "bright" idea, Sometimes an abstract 


geometrical figure or some other symbolic form enters into the field of 
consciousness However, a series of concrete images and forms and colours may 
also appear, but these are the product of the imagination and are not mental in 
character. During receptive meditation this latter type of image should not be 
paid attention to or at the most can be observed quietly for a short time without 
undue interest. 

A higher form of spiritual "seeing" can be called intuition This word may be 
misleading because it has been used in different senses. Etymologically it is 
connected with vision, it means "seeing into." Intuition in its higher and purer 
sense can be considered to be a direct, suprarational understanding or 
comprehension of the true nature and reality of something - comprehension of 
its true quality, purpose, and essence. It is quite different from what are called 
"hunches," which are psychic impressions about people or events of a personal 
character and having personal interest. 

Inner Hearing 

The second way of receiving impressions is that of inner hearing. Here, too, we 
must discriminate carefully between the psychic hearing of voices and the much 
higher inner spiritual hearing. This discrimination is not easy and calls for a 
subtler sense than that needed for discriminating between images and true 
spiritual insight. The difference can be termed one of quality and level. After 
some practice in receptivity one becomes more and more aware of the level on 
which the consciousness functions. If it functions on the emotional and 
imaginative levels the voices heard are apt to give messages or impressions of a 
personal character, highly coloured with feeling of some kind. 

Inspiration coming from high levels, on the other hand, is generally impersonal 
in character. The messages are short, incisive, and meaningful. They are 
generally concerned with one's spiritual advancement and will contain wise 
advice, perhaps pointing out some fault to be eliminated, some spiritual quality 
to be developed or some high aim to be attained. Sometimes the message is 
symbolic in character, even though the phrase may appear to have a concrete 
meanings Such was the case with the well-known message received by St. 
Francis - "Go, and restore my church." He interpreted it at first as an injunction 
to build up a half-ruined little church, but later he recognized that it was a 
command to restore the Roman Church of his time. 

To this kind of impression belong also many artistic, literary, and musical 
inspirations. The poet or musician has the impression that something in himself 
or somebody else dictates them; he seems to "hear" inwardly, and the poem or 
idea or theme appears spontaneously in his field of consciousness. The symbol 


of the Muse inspiring or speaking to the attentive ear of the poet has expressed 
this through the ages. 

Sometimes a dialogue is established between the conscious personality and the 
Self; a question put by the meditating mind receives a prompt and clear inner 
answer which seems to formulate itself and appear to the consciousness. If the 
personality comments on it and replies, a further reaction is then registered. This 
dialogue has been dealt with in its more general sense by Martin Buber in 
several of his books, and he applies it to all kinds of spiritual relationships This 
dialogue can be facilitated through the use of one of the symbols of the Self - 
that of the Old Wise Man. 

Inner Contact 

The third form of receptivity can be called contact, because it is analogous to the 
physical sense of touch or feeling by contact. But this expression should not be 
taken too literally; it corresponds to our meaning. When we say we "contact 
somebody," or are "in touch with someone." It does not mean that we touch the 
person physically, but indicates a relationship, a rapport, an easy interplay at 
will. The same can be said of inner contact, alluding specifically to the Self. It 
means an easy rapport or alignment with the Self which permits receptivity to its 
influence and awareness of its quality and nature, and gradually enables us to 
identify or unify ourselves in consciousness with it, however partially and 

By this inner nearness, by this "touch" of the Self, we are harmonized, vivified, 
recharged with energy, or with that which we specifically need at the time, and 
which the Self is trying to convey to us Its effects are clarifying, and 
enlightening; we are filled with certainty, courage, joy; we feel renewed and 
ready to go back to the arena of personal life and meet its emergencies and 
challenges. We feel that some higher power has descended upon us and added a 
certain degree of blending or infusion by the Self of the radiation from 
superconscious levels. 

Urge to Action 

The fourth way in which we may receive impression from the Self is through an 
urge to action. We become aware of it as a definite urge to do something, to 
undertake a task or duty in some field of service, or sometimes it may be an urge 
toward inner action of some sort, to the changing of something in ourselves This 
type of impression is what the Quakers who have practiced extensively this art 
of receptive meditation and silence, call "concern." 


Again we need to discriminate carefully between urges coming from the Self or 
some high, superconscious level, and those coming from the middle or lower 
unconscious. The way in which they appear in the consciousness is similar, but a 
difference will be found in the quality and content of the urge. Whenever it takes 
the form of a call to a great mission or to some action of personal advantage we 
should regard it with suspicion. An urge of this type is normally of lower origin 
and is spurious and should be dismissed. 


After reception comes the stage of registration. Every impression whatever its 
type or the way in which it is received, should be accurately and immediately 
registered in writing. As mentioned previously in connection with reflective 
meditation, the higher impressions are often vivid and clear at the moment of 
reception, but they have a curious tendency to disappear rapidly from the field of 
consciousness and if not caught and registered at once they are apt to be lost. 
Also, the very fact of formulating them and writing them down helps us to 
understand them better; sometimes during writing the impression will develop, 
and we will continue to receive it. Writing can, in fact, be used as a technique 
for evoking inspiration; it creates a convenient channel for the higher 
impressions. But while writing one should always remain alert and fully aware, 
not permitting any form of "automatic" writing, which can easily have 
undesirable and even dangerous effects. 

Delayed Reception 

Another interesting aspect of receptivity is the delayed reception of impression. 
It often seems that nothing happens during receptive meditation; we remain in a 
state of blankness and do not become aware of anything new except, perhaps, a 
sense of quiet, rest, and refreshment. But this does not necessarily mean the 
meditation has been useless and unsuccessful, for quite frequently some 
impression or inspiration will come into our consciousness later in the day or 
even another day. It may be in another meditation or at some time when we are 
engaged in quite different activities; it may be in some moment of relaxation or 
on waking in the morning, but whenever it is we will recognize a connection 
between the apparently unsuccessful meditation and the subsequent inspiration. 
This connection will be evident when the answer which we sought to some 
question or problem flashes into our minds, but there can also be a less dramatic 
but equally true delayed reception of impression to which we should be alert. 

Therefore, after meditation we should always keep an inner attitude of 
watchfulness and attentiveness - what is called, when developed, a "meditative 
attitude" - during the whole day. We can train ourselves to develop a state of 


dual consciousness, that is being normally concentrated on our outer activity 
while at the same time keeping a part of our attention turned toward the inner 
world. This is the "attitude of the Observer", watching what happens both in the 
outer world and on the various inner levels of life. 

Dangers and Mistakes of Receptive Meditation 

There are several possible dangers which are real and therefore should be 
understood and carefully offset. The two main dangers are negativity or 
passivity on the one hand and over stimulation or excitation on the other. A state 
of passivity allows the intrusion into the fields of consciousness of forces or 
elements coming from the unconscious, including its lower levels. They are not 
always recognized, but even when they are it may be difficult to offset their 
influence and resist their onrush. The difficulty is even greater when they delude 
us by an alluring appearance; they may seem harmless or even of a high order, 
yet not only are they without real value, but they can be entirely misleading. 

The consciousness can also be invaded by influences from sources outside the 
individual unconscious, Using a general expression, we can say that they come 
from the collective unconscious; this term may include general psychic currents, 
general symbols and forms (called by Jung "archetypes"), and specific group 
centres of influence. This field is extensive and as yet relatively little known and 
we cannot enter here into further discussion of the subject. It is enough for our 
present purpose to point out the reality of the danger. 

The chief safeguard against this danger is a constant positive watchfulness, as 
has been said already. Another safeguard is the striving to make a clear 
distinction between spiritual impressions and the multifarious psychic influences 
of a lower kind. Psychic phenomena have no inherent value toward spiritual or 
even personal development, and undue interest in them can become a definite 
sidetrack to our growth. It is wise to remember that primitive people and even 
animals have psychic faculties. Scientific investigation of such phenomena on 
the other hand has its definite place, but that is quite a different matter and it 
requires different methods from those used in receptive meditation. 

The other danger which must be guarded against is over-stimulation. This is 
independent of both the nature and the source of the impressions received, for 
even a high spiritual influence, if it rushes into the personality with full force, 
can cause undesirable effects in some cases; effects which range from nervous 
tension and exhaustion to emotional excitement, fanaticism, excessive and 
feverish activity, or manifestations of uncontrolled psychic phenomena. But 
undesirable consequences can be prevented by wisely regulating the practice of 
meditation or by suspending it for a time when there are indications of trouble. 


The reality of the dangers certainly calls for caution but should not arouse fear 
or discourage the practice of meditation. Everything effective can be a source of 
danger; even the most beneficial medicine can be harmful if taken in excessive 
doses. And to use another analogy, both inner ascensions and mountain climbing 
can be dangerous, but with proper preparation, caution, and skill in action the 
dangers are minimized - and in the case of meditation the benefits far outweigh 
the risks. 

It should be repeated that receptive meditation rightly carried out - that is, with 
constant, positive watchfulness - and followed by discriminating and wise 
interpretation of the results, can protect effectively from influences and 
suggestions coming from either the outer or the inner worlds which may not 
have been previously recognized or satisfactorily dealt with. Meditation focuses 
the consciousness on the mental level, from which it can on the one hand 
exercise an intelligent guidance over the realm of emotion, imagination, and 
psychic phenomena, and on the other receive light, inspiration, and power from 


C. G. Jung and Psychosynthesis, by Roberto 

According to Roberto Assagioli then C.G. Jungs 

analytical Psychology is very close to 

psychosynthesis. In this article he compares the 

two therapeutic approaches. 

Carl Gustav Jung and Psychosynthesis 
By Roberto Assagioli, M.D. 

By Roberto Assagioli; Source: 1967, The Psychosynthesis and Research 

Foundation. Issue no. 19, 

Lecture 1 

Among psychotherapists, Jung is one of the closest and most akin to the 
conceptions and practice of psychosynthesis. But the body of his work is so 
large; his range covers so many different fields, that a complete examination of 
it would require a sizable book. I shall thus have to limit myself to a 
comparative survey of some of the fields that are more directly concerned with 
psychosynthesis; that is, the structure of the psyche of the human being; the 
dynamics of the psychic energies; the methods of psychological therapy and 

The comparative procedure is very productive, because it contrasts the 
respective positions as to their points of agreement and divergence. But 
comparison does not imply judgment or criticism; and I will attempt to be as 
objective as possible, to stick to facts, leaving the reader to draw his own 

Carl Gustav Jung was a keen investigator and an able therapist of the human 
being, who carried his work forward with a mind free from preconceptions and 
academic fetters. His life lacked any outstanding and dramatic event; born in 
Switzerland, he lived with his family mainly at Kushacht, in a comfortable but 
not luxurious house agreeably situated-on the shore of the Lake of Zurich. In the 
second part of his life, however, he travelled and spent considerable periods 
abroad (in India, Africa and America) studying the customs of the people and 
the characteristics of ancient civilizations. He had a kindly welcome for the 


stream of visitors from all countries, and I have vivid memories of pleasant and 
animated conversations with him in his book lined study full of curious exotic 

He had great and diversified gifts: he possessed deep human feeling, an 
insatiable thirst for knowledge, an admirable integrity and intellectual modesty, 
coupled with a sincere recognition of his own limitations and those of others as 
well. In his The Psychology of the Unconscious he does not hesitate to admit: 

"The work in this field is work for pioneers. I have often gone astray and many 
times have had to go back and learn from the beginning. But I am aware of it 
and for this reason am resigned to having to admit that, as the day emerges from 
the night, so truth is born of error. 

But I have never been frightened by error, nor have I regretted it seriously. 
Scientific investigation was never for me the cow that gave milk, and not even a 
means of acquiring prestige, but an often bitter confrontation with reality forced 
on me by my daily psychological experience among the sick. For this reason not 
all I present is written with the brain but not a little with the heart, and the well- 
disposed reader is asked not to forget it when, as he follows the main course of 
the intellectual argument, he comes across breaks that are not satisfactorily re- 
paired. A harmonious flow in the presentation can only be looked for when one 
writes of things already known. When, instead, prodded by the necessity of 
helping and curing, one seeks new means, one is forced to speak about matters 
that are not known." 

This confession of Jung's should be greatly appreciated. His understanding of 
the relativity of our knowledge and the recognition of the unavoidable subjective 
element in every researcher made him shun all systematic formulations and 
categorical statements. He took up a firm position on the ground of 
psychological experience and the empirical method, thus demonstrating a true 
scientific spirit. With it, however, he combined some lack of precision in 
thinking and writing and an unwillingness to admit a substantial reality 
transcending the strictly psychological sphere. But this limitation of his shows 
how unjust was the accusation of "mysticism" levelled at him many times. Such 
a charge reflects a lack of comprehension both of Jung and of mysticism. In 
reality the two standpoints are not only different but quite opposite. The mystic 
believes firmly in the existence of God, of a Universal Spirit; he is convinced of 
being, or of having been, in a state of union with that transcendental Reality. 
Jung, on the contrary, assumes an agnostic attitude towards it; he admits the 
subjective, "psychological" reality of the experience, but maintains that its 
essential, transcendental reality cannot be regarded as demonstrated. This can be 
considered a merit or a limitation, according to the point of view. In any case it 


absolves Jung of the charge of mysticism-a serious one in the opinion of some 

Let us turn now to the fundamental problem of psychology: the structure of the 
psyche. Jung has a keen sense of the complexity of the human psyche. To quote 
his own words "Our psychic nature is of an unimaginable complexity and 
diversity." He has pointed out the relative autonomy of the various psychic 
contents and the existence, often quite incompatible, of different sub- 
personalities or, as he calls them, personae (in the Latin sense of "masks"). 

He makes a distinction, however, between these personae — which also 
correspond to social, interpersonal roles and functions — and the "inner 
personality". In his view, "The inner personality is the manner of one's 
behaviour towards the inner psychic processes. I term the outer attitude, or outer 
character, the persona, the inner attitude I term the anima, or soul." 
{Psychological Types, p. 593) 

Concerning the psychic functions, Jung, as is well known, differentiates between 
four fundamental ones: sensation, feeling, thought and intuition . In this he 
differs from almost all other psychologists by his acceptance of the existence of 
the intuition as a normal psychological function of the human being. 
Psychosynthesis assumes the same position and lays much emphasis upon the 
importance and value of the intuition and upon the necessity of developing it. 
According to Jung, it is the psychological function that permits perceptions to 
arise from the unconscious and causes their contents to emerge as complete 
wholes. He continues: "Intuitive cognition, therefore, possesses an intrinsic 
character of certainty and conviction which enabled Spinoza to uphold the 
'scientia intuitiva' as the highest form of cognition." 

Among the moderns, the greatest advocate of the intuition has been, not a 
psychologist, but a philosopher, Henri Bergson. Much as there is to be said 
about the intuition, I will mention only that there are various types or levels of it: 
the Bergsonian intuition, which occurs predominantly at the normal personality 
levels, is very different from that of Plotinus, which is purely spiritual. Jung 
asserts that the intuition exists at both these levels, on which it assumes different 
aspects but is fundamentally the same. 

An important difference from psychosynthesis exists in connection with the 
psychological functions. Psychosynthesis maintains that Jung's four 
fundamental functions do not provide for a complete description of the 
psychological life; but that there are other functions as fundamental, which merit 
inclusion as well. The first is the imagination. Jung's lack of recognition of the 
imaginative function appears strange in view of his attributing such great 
importance to images and symbols. The explanation lies in his belief that 


imaginative activity can evidence itself in all the four other functions. But he 
asserts this without demonstrating it or dealing with it. It seems impossible to 
admit that fantasy or imagination can be manifested in the function of sensation, 
which is a perception, by means of the senses, of the so-called external reality; 
that is, of impacts coming from the external world. On the other hand, other 
psychologists correctly give the imagination a fundamental place in psychologi- 
cal life. 

Another group of functions that must be accorded a similar consideration are the 
dynamic or "hormic''' functions (from the Greek word "orme" meaning tendency 
or impulse). This group includes the instincts, tendencies, impulses, desires and 
aspirations, in fact all that impels to action. Desire has been included among 
these hormic activities, though desire is generally conceived in terms of only, or 
at least principally, its subjective 

aspect-desire as something one feels, an emotion one has. But this is solely its 
subjective aspect; in reality desire is or has a dynamic energy that impels to 
action. It has been said of it that it is a primordial tendency, the attractive 
impulse towards the not-self. The Dictionary of Psychological and 
Psychoanalytical Terms by H. and E. English (New York, Longmans Green, 
1958), an excellent compilation of marked objectivity, defines desire as 
something active to which the terms "want", "need", "craving" to possess 
something are applied. The Lexique de Philosophic by A. Bertrand comments: 
"According to Spinoza, desire is the fundamental tendency to persist in being." 

It may seem surprising that, among these active tendencies, the will has not been 
included. But a fundamental difference exists between the drives, impulses and 
desires, on the one hand, and the will on the other. We can all verify the 
difference, even the opposition between them; and one might say that the 
"human condition" is a constant conflict between drives, impulses and desires 
and the will. 

In a certain sense the will is something of a mystery, and if academic 
psychologists have neglected desire, they have for the most part ignored the 
existence of the will. I shall quote in this connection the Dictionary of Psy- 
chological and Psychoanalytical Terms already referred to. Under the item 
"Will" and "Voluntary action" it says: "Scientific psychology has not yet 
reached the point where it is possible to define how these terms should be used; 
and yet it does not seem possible to do without the concept of a praxis of 
behaviour patterns that should be termed voluntary and which differ from other 
patterns in various ill-defined ways." Vague as this may be, one can detect a 
rather tight-lipped admission that there exists this disturbing something in 
psychology which is the will. 


structure of the psyche. 

One of the reasons for this mystery about the will 
lies in its intimate association with the "I", the 
subject, the center of consciousness. In reality, all 
functions are functions of a living, self-conscious 
being and thus of an "I". It is the "I" that feels and 
thinks, that imagines, desires and wills above all 
that wills — and therefore as one has in general a 
vague and dim sense of one's self, of sem- 
iconsciousness, it is not surprising that one's sense 
of its fundamental function — the will is equally 
confused and faint. The diagram below, though 
only approximate, is intended to indicate this 

The triangles starting from the central circle represent the psychic functions: 
sensation; emotion; imagination; impulse and desire; thought; and intuition. The 
will occupies a position apart from the others, a central position indicated by the 
circular area surrounding the point of self-consciousness, the "I" or Ego. 

We now come to the direction of the vital interest, and so pass from the 
descriptive to the dynamic aspect. One of Jung's most valuable contributions 
was the discovery and description of two fundamental psychological types based 
on whether the vital interest is directed outwards or inwards, and thus 
"extroverted" or "introverted'. I should mention at once that it is less a matter of 
"types" in a precise and static sense, and more of the prevailing direction of the 
vital interest, and thus of the consequent evaluations, chokes, decisions and 
actions. This predominating tendency can be strong (for instance, indicating this 
intensity in percentages — ninety per cent) or weak (sixty per cent, or say forty 
per cent). There is little need to describe the characteristics of the extravert and 
introvert; by now they are a matter of common knowledge. It is worth 
remembering that this prevailing tendency is subject to extreme, even 
pathological, variations. In its almost pure form, extraversion is to be observed 
in manic states, introversion in melancholia and depression. 

This direction of the vital interest is susceptible to alternations and oscillations 
ranging from the normal and moderate to the extreme and pathological. The 
extremes in alternation are to be found in cyclothimia and manic-depressive 
psychoses, which may or may not be intercalated by periods of equilibrium. In 
addition, the alternation can be rapid or slow, the cycles long or short. It is 
interesting to observe how a normal alternation occurs in relation to the various 
ages from birth to old age. The infant is totally introverted, totally absorbed in 
his organic sensations. As childhood progresses, he becomes increasingly 


extraverted and directs his interest towards the external world. The adolescent 
reverts to introversion when the awakening of energies, feelings, and emotions 
creates problems and crises that focus his interest upon himself. This generally 
gives place again to extraversion as the young man and adult become involved 
in relationships with others (interpersonal and social) and in professional 
activities. Maturity and especially old age produce a return to introversion, 
accompanied by detachment and waning interest in the external world, and by a 
tendency towards the inner life, contemplation and dispassionate observation. 

By combining the tendency to extraversion or introversion with the four 
psychological functions he postulates, Jung arrives at a classification of eight 
types: the extraverted sensory, the extraverted emotional, the extraverted mental, 
the extraverted intuitive, and four corresponding introverted types. But this and 
other classifications expose those who adopt them to the dangers of 
schematicism and pigeon-holing, of yielding to the (so comfortable!) tendency 
to "label" human beings. We must be on our guard against overlooking the 
multifarious and complex facets of human reality. It is all too easy to regard 
others as "objects" instead of "subjects". And this labeling, with its associated 
attitudes of judging, or more often of depreciation, often provokes hostile 
reactions, sometimes of an intense kind, which are thoroughly justified. 

But to the eight types recognized by Jung, others must be added. Opposite 
interest-directions can be associated simultaneously with different levels in the 
same personality. For instance, a man may be predominantly extraverted 
physically, introverted emotionally and again extraverted mentally. His will can 
also be extraverted or introverted. Furthermore, another distinction must be 
made: the direction of the vital interest is subject to two separate "modalities'''' or 
attitudes: the active and the passive. Jung mentions this, but does not develop 
the point, which, in my opinion, has a fundamental importance. A passive 
extravert, endowed with excessive sensitivity, who succumbs to every external 
influence and is dominated by the will of others, is very different from an active 
extravert who tends to dominate things and people, to bend them to his will. In 
this sense, they are opposite types. 

To this must be added the fact that there are two other interest-directions to be 
recognized and given the utmost consideration; the direction downwards 
towards the low, which may be called subversion, and that upwards towards the 
high, or supra-version. Subversion is the tendency to plumb the unconscious in 
its lower aspects; and it can be said to be the province of "depth psychology" in 
its more restricted sense (the "descent into hell") and can be compared to sub- 
aquatic sport. Freudian psychoanalysis displays an almost exclusive interest in 
the lower aspects of human nature. 


In supra-version, on the other hand, the vital interest and search are directed 
towards the higher aspects of the psyche, towards the superconscious, towards 
spiritual experiences. This, in contrast to sub-aquatic sport, can be compared to 
mountain-climbing. To Jung must be given the credit of having recognized and 
demonstrated the existence in the human being of the natural tendency towards 
the high, of a genuine need, which he called instinctive, for spiritual satisfaction. 
He gave prominence to the fact that the neglect or repression of this need can 
create serious neuro-psychic and psychosomatic disturbances. 

Another, and important, difference is one of quality, which is different from 
direction. There can be a supra-version of an inferior kind: the dreamer, the 
passive idealist, the sterile theoretician, the Utopian are examples of supra- 
version of a negative type. There is again a subversion of a superior kind, such 
as the scientific investigation and exploration of the lower aspects of the 
unconscious, what could be termed psychological geology and archaeology. 

Although I cannot now discuss the pscho synthetic tasks connected with the 
various directions of the vital interest, I should mention that there are also other 
psychological types deriving from the differences in the personality "structure". 
There are individuals who are relatively coherent, well "shaped", even rigid. On 
the other hand there are others who are diffuse, continually changeable. Others, 
again, are habitually contradictory or ambivalent. 

All this shows the great complexity of the human psyche and the impossibility 
of framing or pigeon-holing it in some designation or description arrived at from 
a single viewpoint. Only the sum of the various points of view, of the different 
approaches or "frames of reference", can give a less imperfect conception of the 
psyche of that strange creature, a member of the fourth kingdom of nature — the 
human being. 

Up to this point I have scarcely mentioned the unconscious. Its existence is by 
now generally admitted, except by a few psychiatrists and psychologists bound 
by old conceptions which can be considered outdated. According to Jung, the 
unconscious is an exclusively psychological concept and includes all the psychic 
elements, contents and processes not associated with the "I" or Ego in a 
conscious way. Therefore, Jung maintains, the unconscious has no "personal 
centre". This is in agreement with psychosynthesis, which warns against the 
tendency to make an "entity" of the unconscious, almost a personality, more or 
less in accord or in contrast with the conscious. "Unconscious", as I have 
stressed elsewhere, should be considered an adjective, not a noun, and it 
indicates a temporary condition of the "psychic contents", many of which may 
have been conscious and may become so again. 


Jung's most important contribution to the psychology of the unconscious is 
represented by his extensive studies of the collective unconscious. Before him, 
psychoanalysis had concerned itself almost exclusively with the study of the 
personal unconscious. Jung then showed the great extent of collective psychic 
elements and forces, which exercise a powerful effect on the human personality. 
In my diagram* of the constitution of the psyche, the collective unconscious is 
represented as lying outside the individual psyche. The demarcation line is 
dotted, to suggest the continuous exchanges going on between the collective and 
the personal unconscious. The unconscious exists at all levels, in both the 
personality and the collective psyche. 

The collective unconscious is a vast world stretching from the biological to the 
spiritual level, in which therefore distinctions of origin, nature, quality and value 
must be made. It should be noted that Jung often disregards these distinctions: 
he speaks of the collective unconscious en bloc and is inclined to confuse what 
he terms "archaic", that is, what originates in the ancient collective human 
experience, with what is higher (we would say superconscious) and in the 
spiritual sphere. Thus Jung speaks or "archetypes" as "images"; but at times he 
describes them as archaic, racial images, charged with a strong emotional tone 
accumulated during the centuries, and on other occasions he treats them as 
principles, as "ideas"; and he himself suggests their affinity with the Platonic 
ideas. In reality, there exists not only a difference but an actual antagonism 
between these two conceptions of "archetypes", and from this confusion 
between them arise various debatable consequences, debatable at the theoretical 
level and liable to be harmful in therapy, as I shall have occasion to mention in 
speaking of Jungian therapy. In my opinion, it can be said without disrespect 
that Jung himself has been dominated by the potent fascination of the collective 
unconscious, against which he puts his patients on guard. 

Jung rightly attaches great importance to symbols and symbolism, to which he 
devoted much study. He recognized the plurality of meanings associated with 
one and the same symbol, in contrast to the all too frequent tendency to interpret 
a symbol in only one way and on the basis of the preconceived theories of 
whoever interprets it. Jung showed that the same symbol can have different 
meanings, not only in various individual cases, but also in the same person. He 
showed, furthermore, that there are regressive and progressive symbols, symbols 
that relate to the archaic symbolism of the collective unconscious and symbols 
that indicate the attempts, the efforts to resolve certain problems, to bring about 
certain developments. Jung says that some symbols are messages from the 
unconscious (we would say of the superconscious) to the conscious personality, 
and he frequently utilizes these progressive symbols in his method of treatment. 


We come now to an important subject: spirituality and religion. Jung possessed 
the great merit of recognizing and proclaiming (along with very few modem 
psychologists) the reality and importance of spiritual needs. He maintained that 
man has the need to reach an understanding of the meaning of life, to believe it 
has a value and purpose of a spiritual nature. He ascertained that many neuro- 
psychic disturbances are rooted in the lack of satisfaction of this need, in its 
repression. To quote his own words:"... the lack of meaning in life is a soul- 
sickness whose full extent and full import our time has not yet comprehended." 
(Jung, "The Soul and Death," in Spring, 1945, p. 415) He therefore fully admits 
the importance of the spiritual factor, and of the religions in so far as they reflect 
spiritual values and further the satisfaction of spiritual needs. 

On the other hand, although Jung had psychic experiences of a high order, there 
is no evidence that he had the direct experience of a spiritual, metaphysical 
reality. This can be surmised from his declarations of agnosticism. He insists on 
a distinction between spiritual consciousness as a subjective state and a 
presumed metaphysical, transcendental reality; and while he affirms the 
existence and value of the former, he does not pronounce on the latter. He goes 
as far as to say that God is a "psychological function" of the individual. He does 
not categorically deny the possibility of God's existence, but says its objective 
reality cannot be demonstrated. 

Jung can be coupled in this respect with the great American psychologist 
William James, who in his lectures on The Varieties of Religious Experience, 
given at the beginning of this century with considerable courage, advances the 
possibility and importance of a scientific psychological study of religious 
experience. James did not have — and he says so — a direct religious experience; 
and this lack in the case of both James and Jung makes their recognition of the 
reality and value of the spiritual experience all the more significant. Here is 
evidence of the true scientific spirit which leads to the admission of the 
existence of certain realities, if they have been ascertained and documented, 
even if one has not verified them personally. 

Another subject of importance that of the ego and the Self, will be dealt with in 
the following sections on the therapeutic and educational applications. 

Jung is considered a researcher, an explorer of the vast and little known territory 
of the psyche, but we can add that he was a courageous and brilliant pioneer 
who opened up new paths and gave new dimensions to the human mind. He 
contributed greatly to the freeing of psychology from the narrow trammels of a 
purely descriptive objectivism and expanded immensely its field by 
demonstrating the existence and the value of the higher psychic functions, of 
spiritual levels and needs. 


Moreover, as we shall see subsequently, he points the way to liberation from the 
conditioning pressures on the personality and from the powerful influences 
exerted by the images and structures of the collective unconscious. In this way 
he gave effective aid in furthering the "individuation" process, the discovery and 
development of one's true being, one's Self. 

Lecture 2 -Therapy 

A comparative survey of Jung's therapeutic method and that, or more precisely 
those, used in psychosynthesis discloses a substantial agreement in respect of the 
goals aimed at; but also some marked differences in the means and techniques 
they adopt. One of Jung's greatest merits has been his opposition to the 
"pathologism" which still holds almost undisputed sway over official medicine, 
including psychotherapy. Attention is chiefly directed to morbid manifestations, 
in particular to the investigation of symptoms and their quantitive evaluation by 
means of numerous examinations and analyses. The aim is to arrive at the 
formulation of a diagnosis, that is, giving the illness a "name". This 
accomplished, one proceeds to "fight" the disease, often by bringing medicinal 
"big guns" to bear on it, with little concern for possible damage to healthy 
tissues and organs. Recently, however, a reaction against excesses of this kind is 
becoming evident in the ranks of official medical circles. Books and articles 
have appeared recently that outline physical and psychological disturbances and 
illnesses produced by the inappropriate use of medication. 

A step in the right direction is being taken by a number of doctors, endowed 
with a humane approach and a sense of relativity, in affirming that, in reality, 
there are no "diseases" but only "diseased individuals", in each of whom the 
same kind of morbid state assumes different characteristics and takes a different 
course. But up to now only a small minority take this point of view and give it 
sufficient importance. This represents, moreover, but an initial step, which in 
itself remains inadequate: we are still in the "pathological" field. The further and 
decisive advance-which may seem revolutionary-is to start from the "health 
condition" and regard man as a fundamentally healthy being, in whom some 
organ may be more or less temporarily damaged or malfunctioning, but whose 
biological forces are always tending to re-establish harmony, the healthy state. 
Many symptoms then cease to be thought of as direct expressions of the illness, 
but are seen as defence reactions of the healthy organism against morbid agents. 
A typical example of such a defensive reaction is fever; and it is therefore often 
misguided and even harmful to fight fever with febrifugal remedies. 

This "pathologism" of official medicine has been countered by a reaction in 
favour of the use of "nature cures" on the part of some doctors and many non- 
medical healers. Unfortunately this reaction not infrequently assumes excessive, 
sometimes fanatical proportions. Official therapy has had great and undeniable 


success and saved many lives, and all the good it contains cannot and must not 
be discarded. Antibiotics afford a good example of this situation: their moderate 
use in appropriate cases can be of great therapeutic benefit, although their abuse 
can do a great deal of harm. 

Here too the principle of synthesis should be applied. Irreconcilable opposites do 
not exist; opposing attitudes and methods can be united in a constructive 
synthesis. The matter could be formulated also in this way: it is not "this or that" 
but "this and that"; it is a question of finding in every case the right adjustment, 
the appropriate integration, the synthesis of what seems opposed and is instead 

All this is true also in the field of neuro-psychic disturbances and physical ills of 
psychological origin (psychosomatic disturbances). Here too, and indeed 
particularly in this area, the diagnostic label often has a very relative importance. 
Combinations of symptoms are found which do not lend themselves to being 
pigeon-holed according to the "diseases" described in psychiatric treatises. Here 
also there are "defensive structures" erected by the psyche of the patient which 
must be recognized and not demolished until it is discovered how to replace 
them with other and better patterns. Practice of psychotherapy is often directed 
to "fighting" symptoms and disorders and neglects what is healthy and 
sometimes of higher quality in the patient. 

As I have mentioned, Jung reacted vigorously against such "pathologism" and 
declared: "I prefer to understand man in the perspective of his health." (Cahen, 
La Guerison Psychologique, Librairie de 1-Universite, Georg et Cie, Geneva, p. 
180.) Jung's position here is in complete agreement with the basic principle of 

Let us now examine in more detail the therapy used by Jung. This survey, 
however, presents difficulties for various reasons. First of all, Jung openly 
acknowledged the infinite variety of human beings and conditions, and therefore 
the necessity of using different psychotherapeutic methods adapted to the 
constitution and specific situation of each patient. Here is how he puts it: 
"Seeing that anything in this world, if carried beyond a certain limit, can be 
pushed to the absurd, the problem of the neuroses and the means of curing them 
becomes a formidable matter. I am always entertained when clinicians who 
conduct their affairs admirably, claim to cure by A's method, or C's or F's, or 
even J's. Such things do not exist and cannot exist, and if they do occur are well 
on the way to failure. If I treat Mr. X, I am forced to apply the X method, and 
with Mrs. Z, the Z method; and this means that the ways and means of treatment 
are predominantly determined by the nature of the patient." Here too there is a 
close agreement with the plurality of psychotherapeutic techniques adopted by 


Another difficulty arises from the fact that the methods used by Jung were 
developed and expanded during the many decades of his medical activities, 
parallel with his increasingly wide and deep experience and with the new ideas 
and intuitions that presented themselves to his alert and open mind. For these 
reasons — as well as because of the growing prevalence in his last years of his 
cognitive interests and psychological investigations over purely therapeutic 
questions — Jung never wanted to set forth his methods of treatment in any 
systematized and complete manner. 

To fill this gap to some extent, one of Jung's pupils, Dr. Roland Cahen, has, 
with great patience and skill, extracted from the mass of Jung's writings the 
passages and chapters dealing with therapy and compiled them in La Guerison 
Psychologique (see above). This work was revised and approved by Jung 
himself and thus constitutes an authorized exposition. 

A preliminary observation of a general nature concerns the actual name of 
Jungian therapy. He kept to the last the designation "Analytical Psychology", 
which he adopted to indicate its derivation from and connection with 
psychoanalysis. In reality, however, this name does not do justice to the 
integrative and synthetic tendency which increasingly inspired Jungian therapy. 
In fact this aims at producing a profound transformation of the personality and 
its integration by means of what Jung called the "process of individuation". 

But before explaining and examining Jung's specific method, it should be made 
clear that, as he said himself, this method must not be used with all patients. 
There are many, specially among the young, whose disturbances have been 
produced by psychic traumas, by conflicts rooted in the personal unconscious, or 
by strife between the individual and other people, above all members of the 
family and the social environment. Jung maintains that in these cases, treatment 
mainly psychoanalytical and certain methods that he included in what he called 
"little therapy" may suffice (see La Guerison Psychologique, p. 239). However, 
these cases often require also the application of active techniques that Jung 

On the other hand, there is a broad group of patients whose disturbances are the 
product of crises and deep conflicts of an "existential" kind, which involve 
fundamental human problems about the meaning and purpose of life in general 
and about the individual's own life. It is to be remarked that not infrequently the 
patient is not aware of these deep-seated causes of his illness, and it is the 
treatment that renders him conscious of them and then helps him to eliminate 

The principal aim of Jung's method, as elaborated by him during the last period 
of his active work, is the liberation of the individual from the influences of his 


personal unconscious and of the collective unconscious, by means of a process 
the phases of which can be indicated as follows: 

1 . Clear vision, or the above-mentioned recognition of the nature and causes of 
the illness. 

2. Conscious assimilation of the contents of the unconscious. 

3. The discovery of the Self. 

4. The transformation of the personality. 

5. Its integration and synthesis. 

From this it is evident how closely what could be called Jung's "therapeutic 
program" is akin to that of psychosynthetic therapy. 

It is not my intention to describe Jung's procedures; they can be found amply 
dealt with in his books and in those of his pupils. He developed a series of 
profound concepts, sometimes somewhat obscure, about the "shadow", about 
certain parts of the unconscious both antithetical and complementary to the 
conscious personality, which he called "anima" in the man and "animus" in the 
woman. All this, I repeat, can be found in the books of Jung and his 
collaborators. I will touch only on some points to emphasize the similarities and 
differences between these concepts and the techniques of psychosynthesis. 

1. Clarification. Jung fosters the patient's awareness of the contents of the 
unconscious and their assimilation in his conscious personality by means of 
dream analysis and free drawing. The analysis of dreams is the basis of 
psychoanalytic therapy, but this implies their interpretation and here arises a 
substantial difference between orthodox psychoanalysis and Jungian "analysis". 
In psychoanalysis the interpretation tends to "reduce" everything to infantile 
impressions and traumas, and to instinctive urges. Jung instead, although 
admitting the existence of dreams of this type, says that there are dreams of very 
different kinds, particularly those he calls "prospective" or constructive, i.e., 
dreams containing true messages from the unconscious (I would say from its 
higher level, the superconscious), which indicate to the conscious personality of 
the patient certain situations, certain facts, of which he was not aware, and point 
to the solution of his conflicts and the way leading to integration. In his work, 
Jung gives many examples of dreams of this type and their interpretation, 
confirmed by the patient's recognition and by the curative effects. In reality, 
dreams fall into many different categories, and one must be on one's guard 
against stereotyped interpretations of the "dreambook" variety. But too often 
therapists succumb to this facile procedure, ignoring the fact that the same 


symbol can have as many meanings (some of them contradictory) as there are 
patients. Of this Jung was well aware. 

Free drawing provides an excellent means of promoting the emergence of the 
unconscious and encouraging messages from the superconscious. In this 
connection, it should be pointed out that the usefulness of free drawing is 
independent of the artistic value, or lack of it, of the drawing itself. Free drawing 
is an expression of the unconscious and may be of a rudimentary character; 
indeed it is easier for the unconscious to 'give messages' to someone who has 
never drawn than to a person with some training and skill in drawing. In the 
latter case, a concern about form may interfere with and diminish the 
spontaneity of the unconscious. 

Although psychosynthesis makes wide use of these profitable methods, it avails 
itself also of others that encourage the emergence of the contents of the 
unconscious. Prominent among them is the presentation of "evocative pictures", 
called "T.A.T." (Thematic Apperception Test) much in use in the United States. 
It consists of twenty standard designs; but I do not restrict myself to these in 
using the test, principally because they are negative in character, tending to 
evoke only complexes and conflicts and not promote the emergence of the 
higher aspects. Moreover, in view of the great variety of patients, I prefer to use 
different pictures, adapted to each particular case. Naturally, this precludes the 
possibility of compiling the statistics beloved of experimental psychologists — 
which are so often useless. 

There is, besides, Desoille's procedure, the "reve eveille" (waking dream), 
which, skilfully used, is very rewarding, not only in stimulating the 
manifestation of the contents of the unconscious, but also in promoting the 
therapeutic integration of the personality. A method akin to this is the "Initiated 
Symbol Projection" of Leuner. In addition to the images in use by these and 
other methods, I avail myself of a wide variety of symbols chosen for their 
appropriateness to the type of patient concerned. (See Psycho synthesis -A 
Manual of Principles and Techniques, pp. 177-191.) Listening to suitable 
passages of music also yields very good results, because the reactions of the 
unconscious to music are lively and spontaneous. 

2. The entry, not infrequently a veritable irruption, of unconscious elements and 
tendencies, in particular of the collective unconscious, may produce troubles and 
sometimes be dangerous, as Jung clearly recognized. Therefore in the practice of 
psychosynthesis — parallel with the evocation of the "daemons" of the 
unconscious, and at times even before — active methods are employed to 
reinforce self-consciousness, the consciousness of the "I" or Ego, and to develop 
its power of dominating the elements already present and active in the conscious 
personality. This so important part of psychotherapy is generally neglected. The 


discovery of the unconscious, the interest in investigation have often deflected 
therapists from the consideration, of first importance, of the conscious 
personality and its centre, the "I" or Ego. A typical admission of this omission 
was made-by Emil Gutherl at the American Psychoanalytic Convention at 
Washington in 1958. Here are his words: "We should recognize that the ego is 
far more important than has hitherto been acknowledged, but we know almost 
nothing about it". 

Among the many existing techniques for strengthening the Ego, the 
development and training of the will is accorded an important place in 
psychosynthesis. (The will, as I have said elsewhere, can be termed "the 
unknown factor" in modern psychology.) In addition, specific techniques are 
used for the activation and "descent" into consciousness of the contents and 
activities of the higher part of the unconscious, the superconscious. 

3. We come now to the really central point — the discovery of the Self. Here we 
must make clear how Jung's conception of the Self differs from that of 
psychosynthesis. For Jung it is an "intermediate point" in which the conscious 
and the unconscious meet. (See Jacobi: The Psychology of Carl C. Jung.) He 
considers it an "archetypal figure" and states: "From the intellectual point of 
view, the Self is none other than a psychological concept, a construction aimed 
at expressing an essence, imperceptible and inconceivable as such, because it 
surpasses our comprehension." And later he says: "The idea of a Self is in itself 
a transcendent postulate justifiable solely from the psychological point of view 
and without possibility of scientific proof." (Quoted from Depth Psychology by 
A. Farau and H. Shaffens. p. 116.) 

Psychosynthesis, on the other hand, regards the Self as a reality, rather as a 
living Entity, direct and certain knowledge or awareness of which can be had. In 
other words, it can be defined as one of those "immediate data of consciousness" 
(to use Bergson's expression) which have no need of demonstration but bear 
with them their own evidence — as happens in the case of ethical conscience, 
aesthetic experience and the experience of the will. There is a considerable body 
of testimony in support of this. Here, out of many, is the significant contribution 
of Father Gratry: 

"We possess an 'inner sense' which at special times when we succeed in 
interrupting the habitual flow of distractions and passions gives us direct and 
clear knowledge of our Soul... I used to experience an inner form, full of 
strength, beauty and joy, a form of light and fire which sustained my entire 
being; stable, always the same, often recaptured during my life; forgotten at 
intervals, but always recognized with infinite delight and the exclamation, "Here 
is my real Being." {La Connaissance de VAme) 


Others emphasize in their testimony the universal aspect of the consciousness of 
the Self. Hermann Keyserling, for instance, writes: "That which is deeper, more 
substantial than the individual is never the 'general', but the 'universal': and the 
'universal' expresses itself precisely through the individual, and the latter 
becomes more universal in the measure in which he becomes deeper." 
{Problems of Personal Life, p. 167). We have here an example of the 
"coincidentia oppositorum", of the fact that terms which rationally, according to 
Aristotelian logic, appear to be opposites are not mutually exclusive. Life is a 
continual synthesis of opposites; even biological life incorporates a delicate 
equilibrium (homeostasis) between antagonistic systems. 

The twofold aspect, individual and universal, of the Self is indicated in the 
diagram below of man's psychic structure by the position of the "star", which is 
partially outside the periphery of the individual psyche and partially within it. 
The former indicates the union of the Self with transcendent or ontological 
Reality, the universal Self; the latter the relationship with the individual 
superconscious. The Ego, or conscious "I", is an emanation from or projection 
of the Self and can become aware of it in various ways and degrees, can identify 
itself more or less completely and temporarily with the Self. 


■ + -*— 

i \ s 




7 \ 

1 . The Lower Unconscious 

2. The Middle Unconscious 

3. The Higher Unconscious, 
or Superconscious 

4. The Field of Consciousness 

5. The Conscious Serf, or "I" 

6. The Transpersonal Sett 

7< The Collective Unconscious 



There is, I repeat, no conflict between these two aspects of the Self: far from 
opposing each other, they integrate with each other. As an Oriental writer has 
lucidly put it: "No identity (i.e., self-awareness) can exist without universality, 
and there is no consciousness of the universal without individual realization." 
Poets sometimes have intuitions that reach beyond intellectual concepts. An 
Italian poet, Carducci, had a vivid experience of this fusion and expressed it 
admirably in a stanza of his Cantico dell-Amore (Song of Love): 


"Is it I who embrace the world, or from within 

The Universe that reabsorbs me in itself? 

Ah, it was a note of the eternal poem I heard 

And sought to echo in this little verse." 

The poet is not aware how it has happened, whether the "I" has become 
expanded into the universe or the universal life has incorporated him in itself. 
Furthermore, he is aware of the difficulty of expressing this experience, this 
state of consciousness, and of the inadequacy of any verbal formulation ("this 
little verse"). 

An examination of the varying proportions of the individual and universal 
aspects in these experiences would prove very interesting. Here I will mention 
only that in experiences of a mystical, intuitive type, the universal aspect is 
predominant, that is, the invasion of the consciousness by a wider Reality. On 
the other hand, in experiences gained through psycho-spiritual training, in which 
the consciousness seeks to rise to the Self and achieves a momentary union with 
It, the sense of self-consciousness remains uppermost. The individual continues 
to feel "present" and active, while participating in a far wider type of 

4. Let us now examine the phases of the transformation of the personality and 
its integration. According to Jung, they constitute an essentially spontaneous 
process, which, however, can be fostered by the "catalytic" presence of the 
therapist and the human relationship with him. Jung accords special importance 
to this relationship, which he calls "transference". The Jungian concept of the 
transference is neither clear nor unequivocal, and it altered in the course of the 
years. He himself states in the "Conclusion" of his book The Psychology of the 
Transference: "The problematic character of the transference is so complex and 
many-sided that I lack the categories needed to offer a systematic exposition of 
it." (p. 171) He has thus preferred to deal with it through a commentary and 
interpretation of an alchemical text, the Rosarium Philosophorum, the 
symbolism of which appears extremely complicated and obscure, and in which 
Jung himself finds contradictions. 

In psychosynthesis the problem of building good relations between patient and 
therapist is rendered easier — or shall we say less difficult — by the therapist's not 
only pointing out and suggesting to the patient, as Jung does, the goal of his 
"individuation", but encouraging and educating him from the outset to practice 
active methods of acquiring an increasingly clear self-consciousness, the 
development of a strong will and the mastery and right use of his impulsive 


■»£"*** 3 

emotional, imaginative and 
mental energies, and to avail 
himself of all means of gaining 
V v independence of the therapist. 

i Jr+.Z In spite of the variety and 

"*"A' complexity of relationships 

\.^* \ created between patient and 

' t 1 m**' J I therapist, in the practice of 

i v / | psychosynthesis one can 

\ _ _^1 - ^' H _ _ t distinguish four principal ones; 

* f and each is utilized, directed and 

v / regulated with the cure and well- 

^ j being of the patient in view: 







a. The transference — in the strict 
sense originally attributed to it by 
Freud, i.e., the "projection" onto the doctor of the patient's impulses, 
attachments and emotions felt in childhood towards his parents. These attitudes 
can be positive (loving) or negative (hostile). The projections have to be 
analyzed and dissolved. Here there is agreement between Jungian therapy, 
psychoanalysis and psychosynthesis. 

b. The specific relationship created by what may be termed the therapeutic 
situation. In it the therapist represents and exercises an essentially "paternal" 
function. He must, to some extent, take on the role and task of protector, 
counsellor and guide. In dream symbolism, says Jung, he frequently appears 
under the aspect of the "wise old man" and corresponds to what the Indians call 
"guru". This relationship is very different from the unconscious projection that 
happens in the transference. It is conscious, factual, real. 

1. Conscious self or "I" 

2. External unifying centre 

3. Higher Self 

It is indicated in the diagram by the star outside the psyche of the subject, which 
acts as a link or bridge between his ego and his Self. When the ego fails to reach 
consciousness of the Self directly, "vertically", it can be effectively helped by 
the therapist who represents for the patient some, one in touch with his own Self 
and therefore becomes a "model", or even a "catalyst". 


c. A human relationship which is developed as the treatment proceeds and 
creates psychological reactions at various levels and of different kinds. A 
detailed examination of this cannot be entered into on this occasion; I may say 
only that the therapist's delicate and difficult task is to maintain this relationship 
within proper limits and, one might say, "at a high level", assenting to its 
positive or constructive aspects, but resisting the attachments, demands, 
pretences and attempts to monopolize on the part of the patient. It can be done 
with firmness coupled with tact and kindness, and the patient made to 
understand how these attitudes, while they may provide temporary gratification, 
are in reality harmful to him. 

The transition from the second to the third type of relationship is valuable, even 
indispensable, for a variety of reasons; above all to promote the patient's 
growing autonomy, then to eliminate the tendency, rooted in moral laziness, to 
lean on someone else, unload his own responsibilities and get himself led by the 
hand; further, to prevent the crisis of the patient's discovering human 
imperfections in his mentor and helper — it happens easily, one might say 
inevitably! — and disappointedly switching from excessive admiration and 
obedience to criticism and hostility equally excessive. 

d. The resolution of the relationship at the conclusion of the treatment. This is a 
critical point and needs to be handled with wisdom. I have said "resolution" and 
not termination of the relationship, because the conclusion of the treatment can 
frequently happen very gradually and almost imperceptibly, and also because 
the positive relationship can continue afterwards in some form, either as a 
friendship or collaboration, or both. Often the cured patient is able to understand 
and help other ill people better than the so-called healthy. In this way the 
improved patient can, even before being completely cured, collaborate and 
maintain a constructive association with his doctor. 

These patient relationships, and in general the whole therapeutic process, 
demand adequate training on the part of the therapist, not merely scientific and 
technical, but above all humane and spiritual. Jung was well aware of this need 
and expressed it explicitly. Here is a statement of his on this point: "The recent 
development of analytical psychology... gives a prominent place to the 
personality of the doctor himself as a curative or harmful factor, and demands 
the inner perfecting of the doctor, the self-education of the educator." 

Jung therefore strongly insists on the necessity of a didactic analysis; in other 
words, whoever intends to practice psychotherapy must submit himself to a 
psychological analysis by another psychotherapist. In fact, says Jung, "the 
doctor will not spot in the patient what he does not see in himself, or will be 
unduly influenced by it." (La Guerison Psychologique, p. 237.) Psychosynthesis 
is fully in agreement on this point. Two things are worth noting: the first, that 


when the didactic psychosynthesis cannot be managed, the therapist should put 
himself through an "autopsychosynthesis". It may be recalled that a non- 
"orthodox", psychoanalyst, Karen Homey, is in agreement here, as evidenced by 
her book Self-analysis (N.Y.: Norton, 1942.) But she restricts herself to the 
limits imposed by psychoanalysis and does not enter the field of 
psychosynthesis or take into account the higher elements of the psyche. 

In psychosynthesis, on the other hand, the therapist can avail himself of a greater 
number of aids, in the form of active techniques, which he can apply to himself 
and experiment with. I would say that every one of us, but in particular every 
therapist and every educator, can be considered a "living laboratory", in which 
the "occupant" is "experimenting" for twenty-four hours a day (as this includes 
dreams). Moreover, it is not indispensable that either didactic psychosynthesis or 
autopsychosynthesis be concluded before beginning psycho-therapeutic practice. 
The need in this field is so urgent and wide that anyone willing to devote 
himself to it should do so as soon as his training permits, even if lacking in some 
aspects. His equipment must, however, include a critical sense and humility 
sufficient to recognize his own deficiencies, and the goodwill to eliminate them. 
In fact, autopsychosynthesis, like education, should be a lifetime occupation. 

Lecture 3- Therapy and Education 

The transformation of the personality and its integration or psychosynthesis — 
apart from the transference process — often occur spontaneously, or, as Jung 
maintains, as a result of the creative and synthesizing action Of the symbols that 
emerge from the unconscious. Jung does not advise the active intervention in 
this process either of the therapist or of the will of the Ego, the conscious "I". 

Psychosynthetic therapy — while fully recognizing the importance of the 
spontaneous processes of self-healing and the integrative function of symbols — 
proves that these processes can be promoted and effectively assisted by the co- 
operation of the conscious personality. This action is performed by what 
constitutes the center, the dynamic element, that is, the conscious and active 
subject, using his will. 

The necessity for such active co-operation is based on two reasons. The first, 
already mentioned, is to contain and control the energies erupting from the 
unconscious, and then to promote their transmutation, sublimation and 
constructive application. This particularly applies to sexual, emotional and 
aggressive tendencies and energies, which lead to the intensification of those 
already present in the conscious personality. The importance of this part of the 
treatment is evident, as is that of the knowledge and use of the active methods 
for its implementation. These methods can be widely applied in education and 


autopsychosynthesis as well, and should be generally made known and 

The second reason for active co-operation in achieving the integration, the 
synthesis, of the personality lies in the advantage, sometimes indeed the 
necessity, of developing, by means of active training, the psychic functions that 
have remained at primitive, infantile levels, paralyzed by devaluation or 
inhibited by repression. In modern man, engrossed in his interests and practical 
concerns — often with a one-sided development of the intellectual function — the 
higher feelings, aesthetic sensitivity, the capacity to commune with nature and 
the ability to establish human communication with others are often lacking or 
have atrophied. In other people, instead, emotional and imaginative exuberance 
relegates to an inferior position mental, and sometimes also practical, activity. 
There are still other cases, to which Jung draws attention, in which the higher 
aspirations and needs are ignored, underestimated or feared, and thus neglected 
or repressed. One of Jung's most valuable contributions is his having called the 
attention of psychotherapists to these cases and encouraged in his medical work 
the expression and satisfaction of these spiritual needs. 

But further advance can be made along the road opened by him. The irruption of 
the superconscious spiritual contents and energies can be actively assisted. As 
mentioned above, in many cases-indeed I believe in most of them — an active 
training is required to eliminate, or at least attenuate, the lack of balance in the 
development of the various psychological functions. This assistance is of 
particular importance in enabling the conscious "I" to contain and assimilate the 
irrupting superconscious energies and to integrate them harmoniously into the 
totality of the psychic life. 

The use of the active techniques can and should be promoted by the therapist. I 
have said "promoted", since it is not incumbent upon him to teach and apply 
them personally. He can avail himself of the services of competent assistants, 
entrusting the patient to their respective competencies, but always controlling 
and guiding the treatment according to a well-defined program, and encouraging 
the patient to learn to carry it on by himself as soon as possible. 

The techniques amount to some dozens, and I will enumerate only the principal 

I. Psycho -physical techniques 

1 . Exercises in relaxation. 

2. Concentration on and awareness of physical sensations, including the 
muscular (methods of Vittoz, Schultz, etc.). 


3. Exercises in neuromuscular co-ordination — Rhythmic movements and 

4. Physical activities of various kinds. 

5. Handicrafts. 

6. Drawing, painting and modeling. 

7. Playing musical instruments. 

8. Diction — Recitation-Singing. 

II. Psychological techniques 

1. Observation. 

2. Visualization. 

3. Evocation of auditory, tactile, olfactory, etc., "images". 

4. Mental exercises — Meditation, etc. 

III. Psycho-spiritual techniques These fall into two groups: 

1. Those which promote the elevation of the "I" or Ego, the center of self- 
consciousness, to levels usually superconscious and towards union with the 
spiritual Self. 

2. Those which promote the opening of the consciousness to the "descending" 
inflow of the contents and energies of the superconscious. 

The choice of the techniques to be used in therapy must be determined by the 
requirements of each individual case. They should be combined and alternated 
according to a plan or program that is intended to promote the gradual and 
harmonious integration of the personality. This program gives psychosynthetic 
therapy and education its specific character. I have included psychosynthetic 
education, because the greater part of the techniques enumerated can, with 
appropriate adaptations and modifications, be applied effectively in educational 
practice, in the family as well as in school. 

This brings us to the consideration of Jung's ideas on education. Though he did 
not concern himself directly and actively with the educational application of his 
conceptions, his writings on the subject contain much Of interest and value. As 
far back as 1910 Jung published an essay on Conflicts of the Infantile Mind, in 


which — on the basis of a series of accurate observations on the psychological 
development of a 4-5-year old child — he ably examined various problems that 
arise in the infantile mind and must therefore be tackled by parents. These prob- 
lems concern the birth of children, the contrast between imagination and 
thought, the effective relations with parents, etc. The various Prefaces to the 
successive editions and the Appendix contain some wise observations on the 
relative and complementary features of various points of view and 
interpretations in psychology. These are supplemented by useful advice on how 
to teach and explain to children the facts about sexuality. Later Jung elaborated 
his educational ideas and experiences within the general framework of his 
psychological conceptions in a series of lectures, which have been published 
under the title Analytical Psychology and Education in the volume 
Contributions to Analytical Psychology (London: Harcourt Brace, 1928). Jung 
summarizes his ideas in the following statement: 

"The difference between this and any former psychology lies in the fact that 
analytical psychology does not avoid dealing with admittedly complex mental 
phenomena, such as the four main functions of orientation: thinking, feeling, 
intuition, and sensation. We admit that we do not know what these functions 
really are. We should like very much to know into what primitive elements 
feeling, for instance, could be resolved. But despite our ignorance of ultimate 
principles, we deal with these functions as if they were clearly definable organs 
of the mind. Another difference is the method of investigation. We have no 
academic laboratory. Our laboratory is the world. Our tests are real events of 
daily human life and the persons we test are our patients, relatives, friends, 
and — last but not least — ourselves. There are no needle pricks, artificial shocks, 
surprise-lights, or any of the manifold paraphernalia of laboratory experiment; 
but there are the pains and joys, the terrors and achievements of real life that 
provide us with our material. Our method is the understanding of life as 
represented in the psyche of men." (Contributions to Analytical Psychology, p. 

Jung, as we have seen, not only attaches great importance to the human 
relationship between patient and therapist, but also considers the psychological 
rapport between parents and children and between teachers and pupils as having 
decisive significance. For this reason the educator must acquire a clear 
awareness that his psychological ignorance and deficiencies, his own complexes 
and conflicts, inevitably produce injurious repercussions upon those he wishes to 
educate. He should therefore recognize the heavy responsibility he bears and his 
duty to train himself for his noble but arduous task by means of an adequate self- 
education, founded upon the discoveries and methods of the new dynamic 


On this point, Jung has expressed himself thus: "It is of course quite impossible 
that parents should have no complexes at all: that would be superhuman. But 
they should deal with them consciously, they should make it a duty to work 
them out for the sake of their children. They should not evade their troubles, and 
try to repress them in order to avoid painful discussions." (ibid., p. 375) 

The specific applications of Jung's ideas and method of education do not lend 
themselves to being summarized. The way he puts them into practice in the 
cases on which he reports should be studied, and this can be done in the above- 
mentioned book. Furthermore, one of Jung's pupils, Dr. Frances Wickes, has 
written an excellent book on child psychology, for which Jung himself provided 
an extensive Introduction. Its title is The Inner World of Childhood (New York: 
Appleton-Century-Croft; 1927) and it contains much valuable advice on the 
education of children, in particular on the problems of parental influence on the 
child. In a chapter of special interest and originality, the author deals with an 
aspect of the psychic life of the child that is little known — his creation of 
imaginary companions. 

At a conference on education in Basel in 1942, Jung delivered a lecture on The 
Gifted Child. Its subject is of much importance and present interest in view of 
the growing consideration being given to the recognition and education of gifted 
and particularly gifted children. The value of Jung's essay is enhanced by the 
description of his own personal experiences and hardships as a "boy of talent", 
and therefore deserves being quoted at some length. Here is Jung's lively and 
amusingly written account of his scholastic vicissitudes: 

"When I was a schoolboy often, I did not feel at all sleepy or stupid. I was often 
exceedingly bored when the master used to take particular pains with pupils 
unable to follow. But the boredom was by no means the worst part. Among our 
many composition themes, which were hardly inspiring, we were once given 
one that interested me. I set to with enthusiasm and polished my sentences with 
the utmost care. In the joyous anticipation of having written the best 
composition, or at least one of the best, I handed it to the teacher. After giving 
back the compositions, it was his custom to discuss first the best, and then the 
others in order of merit. Mine was not the first, nor the second, and not even the 

All the others preceded mine, and when he had finished discussing the last 
effort, the weakest of them all, the teacher inflated himself in a threatening and 
ominous manner and delivered his verdict: "Jung's composition is by far the 
best but he has ruined it by triviality and lack of thought. For this reason it does 
not merit a place in the list- "It's not true,- I interrupted the teacher, 'I've never 
worked so hard on a composition as I did on this. 'It's a lie,- he shouted. 'Look 
at X (X was the pupil who had produced the worst composition); he has really 


taken trouble. He'll get ahead in life, but you no, because one doesn't succeed 
with ability and tricks ! • 

I said nothing, and from that moment on I did no more work in my German 
class. "This experience, it is true, dates from more than a half-century ago, and I 
do not doubt that in the meantime school conditions have greatly changed and 
improved. But that episode gave me much to think about and left me with a 
sense of bitterness, which, however, with broader experience of life has given 
place to a more balanced assessment. I understood how, deep down, the master's 
attitude had been prompted by the noble principle of helping the weak and 
eradicating the bad. 

Sometimes, however, it unfortunately happens that these principles get turned 
into mechanical rules, which, in their turn, get accepted without further 
consideration and give birth to deplorable caricatures of the good of this sort. 
The weak are helped and the bad is fought in this way, it is true, but at the same 
time the danger of neglecting the more gifted individual is exposed. It is as if 
emergence from the ranks were in itself an awkward and troublesome affair. 
There's nothing to be done about it; the average man distrusts and is suspicious 
of all his intelligence cannot grasp. Ti est. trop intelligent'- a phrase that justifies 
the direst suspicions!" (pp. 135-137) 

Jung rightly deplores this pseudo-humanitarian concept and false conception of 
democracy. "The desire to bring all people to the same level and reduce them to 
the status of sheep by suppressing the natural aristocratic or hierarchical 
structure (in the psycho-spiritual sense, be it well noted) leads infallibly, sooner 
or later, to a catastrophe." (pp. 144-145) 

Jung then adds some valuable observations on the difficulties of recognizing and 
educating talented children. "The problem of the gifted child," he writes, "is in 
no way a simple matter, since he is not recognizable merely by the fact of his 
being a good scholar. In certain cases indeed he is the very reverse. He may 
even be aggravatingly distinguishable by his special brand of absent- 
mindedness, with his head full of nonsense, by his laziness, negligence, lack Of 
attention, rudeness, obstinacy and by giving the impression of being only half 
awake. Judging only by superficial observation, it is often hard to tell a talented 
child apart from a weak-minded one. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that 
gifted children are not always precocious but apt to develop slowly, so that their 
gifts may remain latent for a long time." (pp. 137-138) 

Jung draws attention to and shows the importance of what he calls the gifts of 
the heart: "In addition to the gifts of the head, there exist also those of the heart, 
which are no less important, but of which it is easy to be unaware, because often 
in these cases the head is weaker than the heart. And yet people of this sort are 


frequently more useful and valuable to the well-being of society than those with 
different gifts." (p. 141) 

"Gifted children come up against complications not only in the intellectual but 
also in the moral field, i.e., in the sphere of feelings. Adults who frequently 
distort the truth, tell lies and commit innumerable other sins of moral negligence 
can create problems in a morally gifted child that upset him a great deal. In 
precisely the same way that one fails to notice or undervalues intellectual 
sensitivity and precocity, one adopts similar attitudes towards a talented child's 
criticism in moral and emotional situations. Often the gifts of the heart are less 
evident and striking than the intellectual and technical ones; and just as the latter 
have the right to exact special understanding from the educator, so the former 
also call for the best of which he is capable; in other words, they demand that he 
himself be educated." (p. 140) 

Finally, Jung calls attention to the lack of balance and to the contradictions 
existing in gifted children and to the dangers of their gifts being used in 
antisocial and destructive ways. He writes: "There are not a few talented 
individuals whose usefulness is paralyzed, even perverted often, by their human 
shortcomings in all other fields. Talent has no real value of itself; it only has it if 
the rest of the personality is capable of following its lead to the point where it 
can be applied to advantage. Unfortunately, creative ability can exhibit itself 
equally effectively in a destructive direction as well. Whether it is directed 
towards the good or the bad is decided solely by the moral attitude of the 
personality." (p. 142) 

In connection with the education of these children, Jung raises the problem 
whether they should be brought together in special schools or left in normal 
ones. He favours the second alternative, but does not go into the various aspects 
of the problem. I have discussed this subject in a pamphlet The Education of 
Gifted and Super-gifted Children (New York: Psychosynthesis Research 

Education is a form of interindividual relationship; let us therefore examine the 
problems and methods of interindividual and social relationships, from Jung's 
standpoint and that of psychosynthesis. In practice, the goal or ultimate phase of 
Jungian therapy is Individuation. I say "in practice", because Jung admits that 
(to quote his own words) "the actual process of individuation carries with it an 
awareness of what the human community is... Individuation presupposes a 
unification with oneself and therefore with humanity, of which everyone carries 
a particle within him." (La Guerison Psychologique, p. 228) "The single 
individual," reiterates Jung, "does not live his life to the full and fails to grasp its 
purpose, if he is incapable of putting his T at the service of a spiritual and 
superhuman order." (p. 145) 


Jung, however, limits himself to these allusions which indicate an aspiration 
more than an effective move in that direction. His method is not designed to 
actively help the patient to initiate and to "live" that communion with other 
human beings. Rather he insists strongly on the opposition, indeed the conflict, 
between the individual and the mass, between the personal life and the collective 
pressure exercised by modern social life. This is mechanized and regimented, 
not solely materially but also psychologically, as evidenced by the mass 
ideologies, the pressure to conform, the suggestion and "persuasion" of 
advertising and various forms of propaganda. Jung shares this position with a 
number of other critics of modern life: philosophers, sociologists and 
psychologists, among whom Erich Fromm is outstanding. 

There is, unfortunately, a great deal of truth in all this, but that rigid and extreme 
opposition appears to be one-sided and too absolute. We must recognize that the 
individual and the mass are included in the extensive sphere of human relations, 
forming part of the normal life of man, who is, in his inner nature as well as 
from external necessity, a being both social and sociable. It is indeed true that 
these human relationships are far from being easy, harmonious and constructive. 
We can observe this all the time. Apart from mass pressures, human relation- 
ships come up against many difficulties. Those who are predominantly 
introverted find it difficult to create psychological relations with others, to 
communicate "humanly." The predominantly extraverted, on the other hand, 
establish a wide network of relationships, but these are superficial, incidental, so 
that in reality the individual remains psychologically and spiritually isolated. 

The difficulties and conflicts in human relations are due in large measure to an 
excessive tendency to self-assertion and over- valuation of success in the external 
world. This leads to the depreciation or repression of the higher feelings, and the 
capacity for loving understanding, compassion, altruistic love. The revaluation 
and active development of these feelings thus become a necessity. There are, as 
I have said previously, effective methods of doing this, and the therapist and 
educator should consider one of their most important tasks to be the fostering of 
the awakening and expression of those feelings. 

The first step is the recognition and proper appreciation of the human and higher 
values. One effective practice to this end is the study of the inspiring lives of 
those who have exemplified these values — the heroes, the saints, the great 
humanitarians. But many of them, far more than one might suppose, are to be 
found among simple and humble people, as the "awards for kindness" (which 
should be greatly extended) have demonstrated. 

The second step is to arouse and foster goodwill. There are several ways of 
doing so; and a particularly effective one is direct contact with human suffering, 
and this can be obtained by visits to, and, better still, active help in hospitals, 


prisons, city slums, and visiting and helping lonely individuals — particularly old 
people. Also there is co-operation in creative and socially useful activities, in 
which the group spirit and solidarity are developed, and understanding and 
friendships established. 

There is a series of methods with which I cannot deal now; I will merely 
enumerate them: 

I. Preliminary methods: Elimination of obstacles: egocentricity; separative self- 
assertion; hostility and combativeness; prejudices and preconceptions. 

W.Positive methods: Understanding; generosity; goodwill; altruistic love. 

Help in achieving interpersonal and group psychosynthesis (also called 
interindividual and social psychosynthesis) forms an important, indeed an 
indispensable part of psychosynthetic therapy and education. It can be justly 
maintained that our civilization is neurotic and ill-balanced, and that there exist 
real group neuroses and psychoses; for instance, national glorification and 
ideological fanaticism. Therefore psychotherapy 

should include and undertake these more comprehensive tasks, for which it is 
well equipped. Every sick individual who is helped to establish right human 
relations becomes an element of balance and health in his community; and 
inversely, every effort aimed at adjusting unbalance and collective psychoses 
makes it easier for the single individual to reach and maintain his personal 

Thus the tasks and activity of therapists, educators and all who, in different 
fields and ways, devote themselves to the healing of social ills converge and 
unite in a double purpose. The first and urgent one is to safeguard humanity 
from the dangers its blindness and folly have created for itself. The second, to 
promote the coming of a new and better civilization, in which the individual can, 
in freedom and for the good of all, give expression to and make the most of the 
wonderful potentialities inherent in each human being. 



The Psychologist Roberto Assagioli, M.D 2 

Dr. Roberto Assagioli, founder of Psychosynthesis 5 

Transpersonal Inspiration 8 

Smiling Wisdom 19 

Notes on Education 25 

The Balancing and Synthesis of the Opposites 49 

The Horizons of Psychosynthesis 59 

Meditation 63 

Carl Gustav Jung and Psychosynthesis 84 

Contents 112 


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